Nel's New Day

July 2, 2015

Jindal Joyfully Joins ‘Party of Stupid’

tannedBobby Jindal was lucky that he received little media attention last week when he announced his candidacy for GOP president. One reason is his ridiculous campaign slogan: “Tanned. Rested. Ready.” It first appeared in 1968 from Richard Nixon, the former president who had to resign. Posters with images of Nixon and the slogan continued to appear. It’s never a good idea to copy someone else, and it’s even worse when that person was driven from the highest office in the United States, the one that Jindal wants.

portraitAnother problem is that “tan” implies Jindal is trying to avoid his Indian-American background. Many Indian-Americans in the U.S. are upset with Jindal because he depicts himself as separate from them. Even his official portrait in the Louisiana capitol depicts Jindal as very white. [Guess which one is the real Bobby Jindal!]

Jindal was born in the United States four months after his parents arrived. His name is Piyush, but he wanted to be called Bobby after one of The Brady Bunch. As a teen, he converted from Hinduism to Catholicism at Brown University. He and his wife are very clear about not observing Indian traditions, and he declared he wants to be known as just an “American.”

After he lost his gubernatorial run in 2003, he cultivated a group called “Bubbas for Bobby” for his successful run in 2007. He wore cowboy books, got a hunting license, and sent out a Christmas card with himself, his wife, and his three kids in camouflage. A long-time family friend, Sumir Chehl, was asked to wear Western dress for his 2008 inauguration because that’s what the governor’s political advisers wanted. Jindal has even drawn away from Indian-American donors and failed to attend a rally for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden. The crowd booed at Jindal’s name.

Lamar White wrote that Jindal is “rested” because he never shows up to his job.

“He’s spent nearly half of the last two years outside of Louisiana. John Kennedy, the Republican state treasurer, claims that he hasn’t had a substantive conversation with Jindal since he was first elected, which seems almost negligent when one considers the shape of the state’s finances. Through his state campaign fund, Jindal has spent nearly $4 million with OnMessage, a D.C.-based political consultancy, and perhaps as a result, his name has appeared in the byline of more national editorials than any other presidential candidate. He’s been everywhere but where he was supposed to be.”

Bobby Jindal big smileAt this time, Jindal’s biggest claim to fame is his executive order to “protect” Christians from LGBT people through “religious freedom” after the legislature didn’t  pass this into law. In an op-ed, Jindal wrote his intent to fight “discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses.” No other religions need apply.  Jindal issued the order after he roundly criticized President Obama for his lawful use of executive orders.

After the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in all 50 states, Jindal told his legal counsel to draft a memo stating that his executive order shields government employees from issuing a marriage license to same-sex couples or officiating at same-sex couples’ weddings. Lawsuits and a ruling from a lower court may have forced him to order the issuance of licenses.

Protesting marriage equality Jindal fought to keep mixed-race marriages in the state because of the law. In 2009, Keith Bardwell, JP for Tangipahoa Parish, refused to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples because of his belief that these marriages don’t last. He asked everyone who called him if they were a mixed-race couple. If they said yes, he told them he wouldn’t marry them. Although Bardwell referred these couples to other JPs, Jindal declared his action “a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law.” Six years later, Jindal stated that people in government have the right to follow their personal beliefs in deciding whether to do their jobs.

While other candidates smoked marijuana while they in college, Jindal participated in an exorcism. At Oxford University, he wrote about a close friend, “Susan,” who started having visions and smelling like sulfur—which Jindal noted “supposedly accompanies the devil.” In the midst of a seizure during a prayer group, Susan said, “Bobby, you cannot even love Susan.” The students chanted, “Satan, I command you to leave this woman” and exhorted all “demons to leave in the name of Christ.” Jindal reported that he had shortness of breath and decided to leave the demon alone “to find peace for myself.”

Jindal does have an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. It would give states full control over Medicaid and pool people at a high risk of illness, offering them subsidies. It would also get rid of the business tax break for offering employees health insurance. Unfortunately for Jindal, it’s very expensive, and Ramesh Ponnuru wrote  for National Review that the plan might be too disruptive to the existing system.

He also believes in both the market and cutting government services. Becoming Louisiana’s Secretary of Health and Hospitals at the age of 24, Jindal closed clinics, dropped wages for nurses and tried to gut the Medically Needy Program and restrict Medicaid recipients to five prescriptions per month. Louisiana has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country.

As governor, Jindal inherited over $800 million in budget surplus and ran up a $1.6 billion deficit while creating $800 million in tax cuts and destroying the tax code. The billions of dollars in tax subsidies for business forced him to raid rainy day funds and savings accounts, sell public assets, and treat one-time credits as annual revenues. He ranted against “corporate welfare” while rolling back corporate giveaways to forced corporations such as IBM to accept his discrimination against LGBT people. Louisiana loses $300,000 every time the A&E show Duck Dynasty films an episode, and the state gave an oil refiner $10 million to create 43 jobs. Jindal hated the Obama stimulus money but he quietly took them.

When Jindal tried to fund private schools with funding for public education, the state supreme court called a halt to his unconstitutional action, especially after he promoted the teaching of creationism. He is hostile to women’s reproductive rights, protects his office from open-record laws, and allows his wife’s charity to pocket millions from corporations negotiating with the state.

Jindalthreatened to cut 82 percent in funding for higher education, the highest cut ever seen in the nation. Louisiana is 49th in college attainment with only 29 percent of adults with degrees. Between 2008 and 2014, the state’s per-student state allocations dropped by 43 percent, exceeded only by Arizona.

Once calling the GOP “the party of stupid,” Jindal has wholeheartedly joined them to get his foot into the presidential primaries. In England, he claimed that the Muslims had created “no-go” zones which the English knows don’t exist. He used his position as Louisiana governor to sign the Senate’s letter to Iran claiming that any agreement between the countries could be easily invalidated by another president. Through all this, Jindal has a 28-percent approval rate as a governor, the lowest in every state, and he’s polling at 1 percent in Iowa.

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and potential 2016 GOP candidate attends APPs State luncheon discussion on Common Core at the Mayflower Hotel on February 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and potential 2016 GOP candidate attends APPs State luncheon discussion on Common Core at the Mayflower Hotel on February 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA

Other Louisiana problems from Jindal:

The largest gender pay gap in the country with women paid $.66 for each man’s $1.00.

The second-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation.

The highest rate of incarceration in the nation with two-thirds of the prisoners doing time for a drug crime or other non-violent offense. Last year, Jindal vetoed a bipartisan measure to make more inmates eligible for parole and directed the money saved from their early release to fund rehabilitation programs.

Second-highest rate of gonorrhea, third-highest rate of syphilis, and fourth-highest rate of chlamydia after Jindal blocked funds for STD prevention and Planned Parenthood.

The fifth-highest rate of teen pregnancy with a law barring anyone connected with Planned Parenthood teaching about sexual health of family planning.

A creepy part of Jindal’s declaration for candidacy was his pre-announcement announcement as he sat in the yard with his family and asked his children if they wanted to go to Iowa. In a video for the entire world, Jindal told the kids that he’s going to do something special but they can’t tell their friends. “This is our secret. Don’t let anyone know.”

This would be life under President Jindal.

April 26, 2015

Conservatives’ Need for Feelings of Superiority

GOP presidential candidates blame hatred against Christians because the government is trying to provide equality for all. Some of this paranoia is coming to head on Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case about marriage equality.

The basis for conservative arguments against same-sex marriage is the fear of losing superiority. America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves and indentured servants because of superiority. It was perfectly natural for white people to own human beings as property instead of paying them for their work. After the Civil War, white people kept their superiority with “separate but equal” as blacks were forced to use segregated bathrooms, drinking fountains, and lunch counters. Everyone knew that the facilities were not equal–not even the schools–but white people maintained superiority.

Women had to fight for the vote because of male superiority. The same issue kept blacks from voting even after the 14th Amendment to the Constitution extended rights to all male citizens, excluding Native Americans until the 1960s.

In the 21st century, LGBT citizens can vote, but many same-sex couples cannot be legally married in the state where they live. The argument against marriage equality is that LGBT people want “special rights,” which are actually the same rights as the rest of the people in the United States. In a brief opposing marriage equality, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) argues that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage shouldn’t be considered discrimination because everyone is banned from marrying the same sex, gay and straight alike.

220px-Gadsden_flag.svgSome Tea Partiers who claim that the world discriminates against them more than any other group use the flag with the cry, “Don’t Tread on Me.” It was originally used as opposition to foreign countries but evolved into the Libertarian symbol, and from there it became associated with militia and white supremacist ideology. Jerad and Amanda Miller put the flag on the corpse of one of the two  Las Vegas police officers who they killed. Tea Partiers and other supremacists who oppose rights for all because they don’t want to be treated the same as everyone else.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, is currently leading the charge in this need for superiority. In his op-ed for the New York Times, “Bobby Jindal: I’m Holding Firm against Gay Marriage,” he pictures himself as the standard-bearer “advancing the cause of freedom and free enterprise.” He calls on the business community to “stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty” because “the left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence.” IBM has already criticized Jindal for supporting legal discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” Instead of trying to solve his state’s 19-percent poverty rate and its 17-percent uninsured rate, he focuses on a law based on bigotry and prejudice. As Jindal points out, Louisiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits government from unduly burdening a person’s exercise of religion. This 2010 law isn’t enough for Jindal, however. Now he wants the Marriage and Conscience Act:

“The legislation would prohibit the state from denying a person, company or nonprofit group a license, accreditation, employment or contract—or taking other “adverse action —based on the person or entity’s religious views on the institution of marriage.”

Jindal’s rallying cry:

“Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all. This strategy requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters. This is the grand bargain that makes freedom’s defense possible.”

Jindal’s freedom is for those who do the rejecting, not the rejected. It calls for discrimination by those who wish to be superior in the name of Jindal’s freedom. Jindal even tries to show that discriminating against LGBT people isn’t discrimination:

“The bill does not, as opponents assert, create a right to discriminate against, or generally refuse service to, gay men or lesbians. The bill does not change anything as it relates to the law in terms of discrimination suits between private parties. It merely makes our constitutional freedom so well defined that no judge can miss it.”

Jindal justifies his actions through following the consensus of the country, “that marriage is between one man and one women” but acknowledges that “consensus is changing.” He adds, “I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion.”

Actually, Jindal’s opinion is already a minority opinion: the newest poll shows that 63 percent of “the country” supports same-sex marriage and fewer than 33 percent oppose it. Even states without marriage equality show that a majority approves the right for same-sex couples to marry. As for serving people, 57 percent of “the country” think that business should be required to serve everyone. Among Republicans under 30, 61 percent support marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Jindal concludes by writing, “A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us.” I agree with him: that’s the reason that all people should be served, not just some of them. The law should not make some of the people superior to others.

In the next week, religious zealots will try to flex their muscles of superiority because of the marriage equality arguments before the Supreme Court. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and Family Talk Radio, talks about a second “Civil War,” and Rick Scarborough, Vision America Action, compares his work to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who resisted the Nazis. Tony Perkins warns of a revolution. Objections to legalized marriage equality in a brief from a conservative religious coalition could be a Christian interpretation of the dreaded Sharia law.

“Should the court require the states and the people to ‘ritualize’ sodomite behavior by government issuance of a state marriage license, it could bring God’s judgment on the nation. Holy Scripture attests that homosexual behavior and other sexual perversions violate the law of the land, and when the land is ‘defiled,’ the people have been cast out of their homes.”

The brief relies heavily on Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 24-30. So much for separation of church and state. More ranting can be found here.

While the superiority toward minorities usually comes from white men, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has developed an unusual argument. In her brief, filed with James Bopp, Jr. and Carolyn McLarty, she argues that women should have to marry men because they have a “socializing effect” on men in marriage.

The three assert, “Marriage helps to focus a man’s energy and aggression to socially desirable ends, providing for and protecting wives and children, making their wives and children feel secure, happy, and loved.” Without the need to support a family men probably wouldn’t even work and would certainly have numerous sexual partners without a women.

The brief continues, “Women are more likely than men to initiate divorce because of their different emotional makeup. The complementary, tempering effect of the opposite sex is simply not present in same-sex marriages.”

Because men are too promiscuous and women are too emotional for successful long-term relationships, “the government has no obligation to recognize or promote same-sex marriage.” That’s Blackburn’s argument for forcing both men and women into opposite-sex marriage.

I give the top award for bizarre arguments against same-sex marriage to the man who claims 100 “scholars” blame 900,000 abortions on legalized marriage equality. The twisted logic posits that marriage equality will make opposite-sex couples think that marriage has lost its meaning. They will then not get married. Few marriages lead to unmarried sex which leads to pregnancies out of wedlock which creates more unwanted pregnancies which causes—are you with me?—900,000 abortions. Gene Schaerr used this argument in his amicus brief although he freely admits that he doesn’t see a cause and effect in his “reasoning.” The lawyer who failed in Utah’s case against marriage equality, Gene Schaerr was once a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia.

The question during the next few months is whether the Supreme Court will have enough men needing superiority to deny equal marriage rights to LGBT couples.

April 25, 2015

Presidential Campaign Updates

Three declared GOP presidential candidates and almost 20 others are jostling each other with insults and geometrically increasing extremist positions to make them stand out from the crowded field. Most of their speech time is spent condemning Hillary Clinton, the top Democratic candidate at this time, but this is what they have to say in their spare time. Just a peek at how they would act if they were elected President of the United States:

Ted Cruz: “Obama is a … socialist.” Conservatives think the word socialist—actually meaning public ownership of the means of production—is a term for “stuff Republicans don’t like.”  To Cruz, however, it must mean all-time high corporate profits and stock market with the big drop in unemployment based on private-sector jobs. Cruz’s complaint that “the top 1 percent in this country … earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928” must mean “an unmitigated socialist.”

Cruz has openly attacked his two declared opponents, Paul and Rubio, for not supporting the Second Amendment. As a blogger wrote, “Let the cannibalism begin.”

Last Wednesday, two wealthy gay business hoteliers, Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, arranged a fundraising dinner; Thursday Cruz rolled out his plan to make marriage equality illegal. The first proposed bill is pretty standard for a Republican: amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent same-sex marriage in any state that doesn’t want it. The second bill, however, is bizarre. It would ban any federal court from issuing a ruling related to marriage equality until the constitutional amendment passed. No mention was made of these proposed bills the night before, but Cruz did say, “If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much.” Reisner and Weiderpass both disavowed Cruz’s position, but they’re taking a lot of heat about the event from their customers.

In the House, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is introducing a bill to keep judges from hearing or deciding “any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.” Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) has countered with a bill to restrain King from introducing bills and made a statement about King’s long record of outrageous racist and other inflammatory remarks–ending “anchor babies” and describing undocumented immigrants as having “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they were smuggling drugs.”

Cruz may have found his billionaire supporter in Wall Street hedge-fund magnate  Robert Mercer who made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market.  Oregonians remember Mercer as the man who bankrolled Art Robinson’s attempt to unseat Rep. Peter DeFazio. Robinson, known for his opposition to scientific viewpoints about evolution, AIDS, and nuclear waste, is now collecting urine samples from people across southeastern Oregon in an experiment about curing cancer.

With the highest percentage of missing votes in the Senate—10.4 percent—Cruz also skipped the vote on Loretta Lynch for Attorney General for a fundraiser in Texas. He also missed the vote on the Keystone Pipeline while fundraising in California. (Rubio is second in missed votes with 8.2 percent.)

Rand Paul: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are President Obama’s “lapdogs,” said Paul in response to the two war hawks accusing Paul of naivete. from the two war hawks. McCain and Graham are actually contemptuous of the president’s foreign policy because he won’t attack more nations and start more wars: the president is more like Paul until as Paul advocates a huge increase in defense spending and more strikes against ISIL.

Paul is over 50 years old, but he still struts around in his shades trying to look “cool” with his shades. The inclusion of “Rand branded Raybans” in his campaign store, however breaks the law just as Paul’s plagiarism may have. The glasses are gone after a Rayban made a formal request that Paul remove the glasses from the store and “cease any further use of our trademarks.”

Paul’s revelation that he had found a Hillary Clinton scandal so terrible that her campaign would be wrecked fizzled after Peter Schweizer admitted that he had no proof for his allegations in his book, Clinton Cash. Now Paul is begging for information about Clinton scandals on his website and through Twitter.

Paul wants to terminate programs for the elderly such as Meals on Wheels and let old people depend on the “nobility of charity.” He also wants to destroy more federal agencies than Rick Perry did, eliminating all federal funding for education—even school lunches. Privatizing Medicare and Social Security also fits into his agenda.

Paul wrote the piece lauding the Koch brothers on Times’ 100 most influential list, praising their “generous philanthropic efforts” and their consistent lobbying “against special-interest politics.” The brothers developed the pledge “No Climate Tax” to combat climate change, signed by over 450 federal and state politicians including Rand Paul. Thirty-six of 48 Koch Industries lobbyists in 2013-2014 had held government jobs in the past. Here’s a partial list of the special-interest groups that receive millions from the Koch brothers. And they plan to donate almost $1 billion to elect a GOP president in 2016.

Marco Rubio: The $85 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler was not the “right way” for the federal government, but “our auto industry is important.” The bailout actually saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the industry bounced back. It was an effective action, but Rubio still thinks that the successful policy wasn’t “the right way to handle it.” Everyone can agree and disagree with Rubio’s statements because he takes both sides with the same breath.

A few other self-avowed “undeclareds”:

Mike Huckabee: “I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under god’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.” In other words, Huckabee is telling young people to not join the military in an attempt to weaken security for the United States.

Huckabee claims that the backlash to Indiana’s law permitting discrimination is proof that liberals hate all Christians. He also says that the upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality will be moot because “one branch of government does not overrule the other two.”

Bobby Jindal: Despite watching the debacles in other states attempting to legalize discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, Jindal wants one of his own. IBM has asked Jindal to change his position because the law creates a “hostile environment” in the state that is already in dire financial straits. Jindal refused and thinks he can solve his fiscal problems with an 82-percent cut for higher education. Louisiana is already in the top ten least educated states in the country and almost last in the annual education report card issued by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. College professors get about $16,000 less than the national average salary. Jindal explains his low approval rate—27 percent—by saying that it’s dropped by 15 to 20 points because he cut spending and took on the teacher unions. That was his campaign platform in a deep red state; he did exactly what he told the voters he would do.

Rick Santorum:  As president, the former senator would force children to read the Bible, force pregnant rape victims to give birth, stop birth control, and keep mothers at home. He thinks that people misunderstood the Crusades, Palestinians don’t exist, and President Obama wants a secular theocracy. It’s an oxymoron: theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god, and  secular is not subject to or bound by religious rule.

Scott Walker: Wisconsin’s current governor is such a disaster that his actions require several books to explain, but, using Wisconsin as a model, the U.S. would get higher employment and deficits if Walker were president. From January 2011 to January 2015, Wisconsin was 35th in job growth, compared to a national average of 8.21 percent. (Other governors considering the White House have the same problem: Jindal’s Louisiana is 32nd, and Chris Christie’s New Jersey is 40th.) Walker, with a two-year deficit as high as $2 billion, has cut $300 million for higher education on top billions in previous education cuts. Without a college diploma, he may consider education to be superfluous. In his home state, his disapproval rate is 56 percent.

After the New York Times published an article accusing Hillary Clinton of exchanging favors for donations to the Clinton Foundation, Mitt Romney’s commented, “It looks like bribery.” He missed the facts. As Secretary of State, Clinton had nothing to do with the review of the Uranium One deal, and nine separate U.S. agencies, including departments of Treasury, Justice and Commerce, were part of the process. The donation to the Clinton Foundation occurred in early 2008, a year before Clinton became Secretary of State. As NBC news wrote, “[U]pon reflection, that Times article doesn’t hold up that well 24 hours after its publication.” All the discussion was on “perception” or “narratives.”

Deficits, high unemployment, lack of personal freedom, poor education, corruption, illegal activities, lying, bigotry, war—which one do you pick for president?

February 1, 2015

U.S. Closer to a Theocracy

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 4:12 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Evangelical candidates are circling the wagons, readying themselves for presidential candidates against attacking infidels. One prime fundamentalist Christian in this position, Mike Huckabee, has declared that no school shootings would occur if public schools provided Bible readings, daily prayers, religious assemblies, and “chapel services.” In the good old days—according to Huckabee—people brought Bibles to school, not guns “except for the deer hunters who left them in their trucks.” His big-government solution would use legislation to force religion on public school children in flagrant violation of the First Amendment.

Huckabee is missing a few facts. Gun violence in school occurred before the Supreme Court ruling on neutrality toward religion. Bibles aren’t prohibited in public schools. And the presence of Bibles doesn’t stop wrongdoing in hotel rooms, and people still steal money although it’s all been printed with “In God We Trust” since the 1950s.

If he were elected president, Huckabee said if he were elected president that he would have “God’s blessing” to fight the “secular theocracy” imposed by atheists. According to Huckabee, the United States needs to become a “God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God.”

Other wishful presidential candidates are trying to force their religious beliefs on U.S. citizens. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rally last weekend hosted, among others, the Christian Dominionists who believe that every part of everyone’s life, from politics to wearing apparel, should be directed by their religion. George W. Bush’s administration funneled billions to their cause and employed a large number of Dominionist believers. At the rally, Dominionist Gene Mills said, claimed that the rally was a vital part of the effort “to reclaim territory that rightfully belongs to God [because] these seven spheres of influence are under enemy occupation right now.”

Jindall wrote to 100,000 pastors stating that the event was to train “the men and women of Issachar.”

“There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”

US_ARMY_SANDWICH_BOARDChristian control is already in effect in the United States. The U.S. Army, funding for by U.S. taxpayers, is recruiting soldiers in Phoenix (AZ) in the name of a Christian god using graphics of shoulder tabs from the U.S. Special Forces: Green Berets, Rangers, Delta Force, Airborne, etc. Using the phrase “On a Mission for Both God and Country,” it follows other religious positions of the armed services such as the threat of “lockdown” if service members didn’t attend “Christian Rock” concerts, Trijicon riflescopes inscribed with New Testament Bible references, and the mandatory “Jesus Loves Nukes” indoctrination course to train USAD nuclear missile launch officers.

The mayor and city council of Winfield (AL) have declared that God the “owner” of their city by calling it a “City under God.” Their rationale is that they are no different from the coins that state “In God We Trust.” Mayor Randy Price said that the nation is an “awful condition” and that Winfield residents might become more religious if God owns the city.

Price justified their decision in a secret meeting by claiming that “our forefathers said ‘One Nation under God.’ ” These forefathers were Congressional members who added “One Nation under God” in 1954 to the Pledge of Allegiance—written by a Socialist in the 1890s. The Winfield ownership resolution:

 “Whereas we acknowledge God is the owner of the City of Winfield and that it is a City under God. We acknowledge that at all times, He is in control.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that through His leadership, the Mayor and City Council will seek his wisdom and knowledge to be good stewards of the city.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that though prayer, with His guidance and presence, that we will be able to trust that no problem will be too large or too small to overcome.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that the City of Winfield is where it is today because of God’s grace and mercy.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that at all times and in all circumstances, His will shall be done.

“Whereas, we acknowledge that to God be the glory.”

No one knows if the mayor and city council consulted God about his owning the town, but at least one Winfield resident said he was sending a complaint to the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). Price admitted that he might “step on a lot of people’s toes,” but he believes that  “there’s not but one God.”

Other governments are trying to establish theocracies. Oklahoma legislators have introduced a bill limiting marriage to only Christians and Jews—and only married by priests, ministers, rabbis, or ecclesiastical dignitaries. State Rep. Todd Russ said that the bill protects court clerks and other officials from being forced to participate in same-sex marriages. Todd said, “[People other than Christians and Jews] don’t have a spiritual basis for a marriage and don’t want to have a clergy member or a priest or someone involved in the spiritual aspect, then they can file an affidavit of common-law marriage.” Oklahoma law doesn’t recognize common-law marriages.

Three Mississippi legislators, including one Democrat, have introduced bills to make the Bible “the state book.” State Rep. Tom Miles (D) said, “The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people. They could read in there about love and compassion.” Bills’ supporters claim that they aren’t trying to force religion on the rest of the state.

Missouri lawmaker Elijah Haahr (R) has devised a way for universities to get federal funding even if they ban LGBT organizations: just ban all LGBT people from belonging to groups based on the members’ religious beliefs.

“No Gays Allowed.” Virginia’s lawmaker Bob Marshall wants any provider of service in the state to have the right to post such a sign. Marshall has wanted to exclude LGBT people from the state National Guard and block a gay judge’s appointment because, according to Marshall, “sodomy is not a civil right.” Michigan and Mississippi have passed “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” that allow denial of service to anyone—pregnant women, people of another religion, etc. instead of just LGBT people. Over a dozen other states are moving in this direction in the 24 states controlled by both GOP legislators and governors.

Twenty-six percent of people in the United States—80 million people!—think that the God-favored team will win the Super Bowl. Twenty-seven percent of the nation’s sports fans have that belief, and another 53 percent of respondents to the survey think that God rewards faithful athletes with good health and success. Thirty-three percent of football fans pray for their team’s win, 31 percent think that God has cursed their team, and 25 percent perform pre-game or game-time rituals.

Proof to some of these believers is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the losing Green Bay Packers said, “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome (of football games). He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.” The winning Seattle Seahawks went to the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson, Seahawks quarterback, gave God full credit for the win. Devout Christian Tim Tebow wasn’t as lucky. The Patriots went to this year’s Super Bowl after they fired Tebow.

Maybe the religious faith in “the church of the NFL” is the reason that it doesn’t have to pay taxes—just like other churches. Would that happen to the people of the United States if it turns into a theocracy?

January 29, 2015

What They Said Last Weekend: GOP Presidential Wannabes

The 2016 election circus started in Iowa last weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit as conservative possible presidential candidates gave the crowd a feeding frenzy of far-right rhetoric. In some mysterious way, the state with under one percent of the nation’s population and composed of over 90 percent whites gets more press than any other place in the nation.

To satisfy the crowd, all candidates put hope on the future of the United States by returning to a past with small government and big business with the country’s military power forcing countries to do the bidding of the U.S. Solutions to problems are sealing the borders (at least the southern one), eliminating the Affordable Care Act, closing government agencies, cutting taxes and regulations small business, erasing unions, privatizing schools, and protecting Christian liberty and traditional marriage.

Scott Walker: Declared the winner and possible toy of the enormously wealthy Koch brothers, the Wisconsin governor bragged about allowing more concealed weapons, decreasing voters through stricter laws, and cutting state spending. His anti-union crusade excludes police and firefighters comes from a colonial management style. He also lied in his speech (what a surprise!) when he said that his changes prevent things happening such occurrences as when Wisconsin’s 2010 “outstanding teacher of the year” winner got laid off. In truth, Megan Sampson self-nominated herself for an award as a first-year teacher of English, and she is still teaching. After Walker used “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” as his union, the pro-union band Dropkick Murphys tweeted, “Please stop using our music in any way … we literally hate you.”

Ted Cruz: A preacher’s son like Walker, the senator claimed, “Our rights are from God, not government.” He added, “[The] Constitution binds the mischief of government.” Claiming that the federal government is filled with “senseless obstacles,” Cruz wants to reassign the 110,000 IRS employees to guard the Mexican border, expunge the “locusts” at the EPA, repeal “every word” of Obamacare, and replace the federal income tax with a flat regressive tax rate. His new mantra may be “Show me where you have stood up and fought.” He said, “If you’re a single mom waiting tables, you can do anything.” Saint Reagan got a nod when Cruz declared the key to a 2016 victory was “reassembling the Reagan coalition” of evangelicals, libertarians, blue-collar democrats, women, and youth. [Good luck on getting the women back with current proposed legislation!]

Chris Christie: The combative, bullying New Jersey governor morphed into a deferential, solicitous man for the Iowa event, touting himself as pro-life, conservative, and successful because of his great minority backing. His brashness, according to Christie, comes from an Irish father and Italian mother who taught him to be open and forthright.  The audience swallowed his speech–hook, line, and sinker.

Carly Fiorina: The loser to California’s Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010 immediately bragged about her religion by telling about the plaque her Sunday School-teaching mother gave her: “What you are is God’s gift to you and what you make of yourself is your gift to God.” As the CEO “of the largest technology company in the world,” she claims to know that the promise of the United States is not from weak managers such as President Obama and Hilary Clinton but instead from the real leaders (presumably her) who “create possibilities.”

Ben Carson: The retired brain surgeon pushed the need for conservative family values, using his single mother as an example. The only black GOP candidate, he wants people to listen to their parents and “not social psychologists” as well as charter schools and prosecution of business owners who hire any undocumented person. According to Carson, government expenditures of $5,000 for Medicaid could buy “boutique” private insurance. All public lands would be open to oil and gas drilling, if Carson had his way.

Donald Trump: The pro-business approach from this New York-based real estate mogul contrasted to the other, more ideological candidates. Referring to two possible candidates who didn’t attend, he said Mitt Romney should go away because he “failed” and “choked” running for president in 2012, and “the last thing we need is another Bush.” (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul did not attend; they attended the Kochs’ donor summit in southern California). Ironically, he said that the country needs to rebuild the “crumbling” roads, bridges, and airports, something the GOP leadership has refused to consider. To Trump, current mainstream weak, bungling GOP leaders don’t know how to close deals.

Rick Santorum: The former representative and losing presidential candidate who tied Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP caucus has shifted from an evangelical scold to a proponent of privatized education and rebuilding the family. The GOP should focus on working people instead of  business owners and entrepreneurs.

Sarah Palin: “America needs a hero again, and screw the left and Hollywood who can’t understand what we see in someone like Chris Kyle [the protagonist of American Sniper] and all of our vets.” She said a lot of other things, including pointing three fingers at someone, but most of it was largely incoherent. You can listen to it here.

Mike Huckabee: The crowd had thinned considerably before the former Alabama governor and  presidential loser got up to speak. In contrasting ISIS and climate change, he said, “I believe most of us would think that a beheading is a far greater threat than a sunburn.” Accused of being insufficiently conservative on fiscal and education, he tried to recoup his losses by saying that education should be a “local function” and blamed income inequality on regulations and government overreach.

Rick Perry: Trying to look like a border warrior, the former Texas governor and failed presidential candidate looked for immigration hawks: “If Washington refuses to secure the border with Mexico, Texas will.” He also bragged about the big job creation in his state during his time in office, something going downhill with the gas prices.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal skipped Iowa to host a prayer rally backed by some of the most extreme Christian activists. The promotional materials for Jindal’s event were exactly the same as those for a rally held Texas Gov. Rick Perry held in 2011 to launch his presidential candidacy, but fewer than 10 percent of Perry’s 35,000 audience attended this event. Messages were the usual anti-choice and anti-LGBT positions, including ranting from Jim Garlow who believes that same-sex marriage is demonic. The group also wants to delete IRS restrictions that try to keep tax-exempt churches out of electoral politics. Jindal, who claims he is “not for discrimination against anybody,” wants a constitutional amendment to allow discrimination against same-sex couples. Describing himself as an “evangelical Catholic,” his language matches that of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In the aftermath of Jindal’s rally, organizer Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association was fired from his position as AFA’s director of issue analysis a few days before almost 100 RNC members take an AFA-funded trip to Israel. Fischer has said that the Jewish religion is counterfeit and Jews don’t have First Amendment rights. Fischer has kept his AFA talk show as a platform for his hate speech.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) appeared in a panel with Cruz at the Koch brothers’ donor forum on the same weekend as the Iowa event. All of them suggested that they would reject a deal to cut $10 in spending for every $1 in new taxes. Four years ago, the House decided that the ideal cuts-to-revenue ratio would be a 5-to-1 ratio in GOP favor of “85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases.” The responses from these three senators show a marked move to the right in just four years by refusing a 10-to-1 cut.

The senate terms for both Paul and Rubio are up in 2016, forcing them to make plans about running for both offices. At this time, Kentucky state law does not permit this for Paul.

The best humor, however, is Mitt Romney’s born-again shift in opposing income inequality. This quiz shows his attempts to usurp Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) position on this issue.

Doing well in Iowa and pandering to the far Christian right doesn’t predict success in a national campaign. Past winners in Iowa have been Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson, and Pat Buchanan. These appearances, however, do push the major candidates to the right and show what we can expect to hear during the next 21 months.

April 9, 2014

The ACA: Hell Freezes Over

I never thought it would happen: hell just froze over! After voting at least 51 times to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, House  GOP members voted to expand coverage choices as part of the legislation that stopped cuts for doctors’ Medicare payments. The bill, passed by the Senate and promptly signed into law, eliminated a cap on deductibles for small group policies in both federal and state exchanges.

The attitude change isn’t permanent, and hell is warming up. Until the ACA, major laws were always tweaked for improvement—Social Security, Medicare, even Massachusetts’ “Romneycare.” All the GOP wanted to do to ACA, however, was eliminate all its benefits. When Mitt Romney’s choice of news source, the extremist far-right Drudge Report, condemned this tweak, Speaker John Boeher’s (R-OH) office tried to explain that the new law actually repealed part of the ACA.

Image: CPAC's Annual Conference in Maryland

[Republican Governor from Louisiana Bobby Jindal at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, USA, 06 March 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA]

Republicans are woefully short on ideas about changing the ACA, as Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, demonstrates. Almost a year ago, he told the GOP that they had to stop being “the stupid party” before he joined the stupid curve to be considered as a presidential candidate. His new ideas for a healthcare plan are just plain confusing.

Jindal sticks with conservative positions of Medicaid block grants, Medicare vouchers for private plans, and limiting malpractice lawsuits, but he recommends cutting tax breaks for employer healthcare plans and using the revenue to provide deductions for individuals to buy insurance. He also wants to set aside $100 billion for pre-existing conditions with federal funding instead of the current practice of spreading these costs across the market through n insurance mandate.

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study of Jindal’s ideas found that replacing the tax exclusion with a deduction “would likely cause employer-based health coverage to seriously erode by encouraging employers to discontinue their coverage.” Conservative health policy experts James Capretta and Tom Miller estimate that high-risk pools aimed at covering up to 4 million people would cost between $150 to $200 billion over 10 years showing how low Jindal’s figure is. The governor’s policy director said that states, already saddled with far more costs than a decade ago, could pay the rest of the money.

Before the GOP turned farther right, Republicans promoted an individual mandate. Only after President Obama supported their model did the GOP reject the idea. Jindal is dreaming if he thinks that the House Republicans would support high-risk pools. Last year, it turned down a bill from Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) for just $3.6 billion on high risk pools that would be fully paid for with cuts to Obamacare.

Jindal’s plan would repeal the ACA, cancel millions of healthcare plans, do away with more insurance plans by eliminating employer-based care, and erase the ACA financing while at the same time making Medicare into a voucher scheme. Even the ultra-conservative National Review found Jindal’s plan “too disruptive.”

In the House, GOP leaders are avoiding any concrete healthcare ideas. After waiting almost five years, all people  hear is that the plan is being delayed “at least a month,” as Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Bloomberg News this week. The GOP has an excellent reason for their procrastination. A “congressional GOP health aide” anonymously said that they can’t come up with an alternative that doesn’t look like the existing healthcare plan.

The Republicans know what the rest of the country is learning: people hate the word Obamacare, but they love everything about it. In a discussion about healthcare, they ask if repeal means that the popular parts will be gone. The answer is “yes.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) took the bull by the horns and said that the GOP can’t reinstate these popular provisions because they are too expensive. On Bloomberg’s Political Capital with Al Hunt, Ryan was asked about specific provisions: coverage for pre-existing conditions, parents’ insurance covering children until they are 26, the ban on annual and lifetime caps, different rates for people whose jobs include physical labor, etc. He said that these reforms “basically make it impossible to underwrite insurance.” He admitted that the GOP wants to erase healthcare coverage for millions and eliminate consumer protections for the rest of the people who manage to keep insurance.

Popular provisions would be too expensive under GOP policy because they will kill the individual mandate. Under GOP rule, insurance companies could go back to elaborate underwriting forms that demand answers to private details of health histories so that they can discriminate against people with health issues. All the ACA asks is age and tobacco use.

The biggest fears that people have about the ACA is its cost and its ability to refuse people insurance. Ann Coulter tried to tell a horrifying story about a “friend’s sister” who supposedly died of cancer because Obamacare took away her insurance. Politifact rated her tale as “pants on fire,” saying that if Coulter’s story was accurate, then the woman elected to drop her coverage.

A new piece on the internet blames drastic increases in premiums on the ACA. It started with a Forbes column from Scott Gottlieb, connected to the American Enterprise Institute. He refers to a non-existent survey and has no background information for his assertions. No right-wing major newspaper repeated this information, showing that they think it is fraudulent. The only premium increases are “off-exchange” and non-employer plans. PwC’s Health Research Institute reports that the average cost of premiums on ACA exchanges are 4 percent less than employer-provided plans with comparable benefits. Another “pants on fire.”

Yesterday, the Rand Corp. released its study of the ACA’s effect on health insurance coverage:

  • At least 9.3 million more people in the United States have health insurance than in September 2013, almost all of them because of the law.
  • The number of people getting insurance through their employers increased by 8.2 million.
  • Of the 3.9 million people counted by Rand as obtaining insurance on the individual exchange market, 36% were previously uninsured. That ratio is expected to rise when the late signups are factored in. Medicaid enrollment increased by 5.9 million, the majority of whom did not have insurance before signing up.

And this is just the beginning. Experts expect more enrollments as other changes occur.

The Medicaid increase comes from only half the states because the other half have refused to take federal funding for the program to insure their indigent, uninsured people. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped design the healthcare systems in both Massachusetts and the United States, talked about the conservatives in the states that rejected Medicaid:

“[They] are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.”

Gruber described it as “nothing short of political malpractice.” Virginia is a prime example of this evil. Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigned on Medicaid expansion, but the commonwealth’s legislature blocks these benefits for 400,000 lower-income Virginians in the healthcare coverage gap, those who can’t afford to buy healthcare but make too much money for the extremely low Medicaid qualifications.

charlene dillIn a real story about a real person, 32-year-old Charlene Dill, mother of three who worked three part-time jobs to make $9,000 a year, dropped dead at one of her jobs having no health insurance for her chronic heart condition. She was in the coverage gap. GOP legislators are literally murderers in half the states.

The other evil-doers are the huge corporations who are making money while trying to keep people from having health care. While Koch Industries and other conglomerates are spending millions against the ACA, they are benefiting because the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program pays health insurance costs for those not covered by Medicare. Other companies benefiting from ACA are UPS, Union Pacific Railroad, Altria Client Services, AT&T, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline—all companies that paid to elect anti-healthcare legislators. These corporations are also murderers.

Although a variety of polls show that a little more than half the people support or oppose the ACA, the surveys do not indicate the reasons for opposition. Personally I and many others would opposed it to get universal healthcare. I try to imagine what the polls would have said if the conservatives had not sent billions of negative messages about the ACA.

July 7, 2013

Religion: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Conservatives want religion taught in school–but just their own. California has a state law prohibiting the teaching of religion in public schools, and a San Diego couple decided that teaching yoga is religious indoctrination. Judge John Meyer in the San Diego Superior Court decided differently, and the Encinitas Union School District can continue to provide yoga as part of its health and exercise curriculum. Yoga, the judge said, is similar to other exercise programs like dodgeball. Encinitas Supt. Tim Baird hopes that teaching yoga to students will decrease instances of fighting and bullying.

At the same time, religious indoctrination is prevalent in Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, New Hampshire, Texas, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, and several other states. Those opposing this can sign a petition calling for a federal ban on teaching creationism in school. Congress would have to pass any law against this, but the White House could cut federal funding from states that teach creationism in schools.

Many religious groups object to teaching creationism. According to the National Center for Science Education, at least 77 percent of people in the country who belong to the twelve largest Christian denominations belong to churches that support evolution education. A 2009 Pew Poll found that 87 percent of scientists support evolution and 97 percent say all living things on earth have evolved over time. Of a total of nearly half a million U.S. earth and life scientists, only a mere 700, or 0.15 percent, give any credence to creationism.

Federal courts are specific about creationism being theology, grounded in a literal reading of the Bible, not science. Creationists try to slip it into the schools by pretending that it teaches kids “critical thinking” skills, lumping it with other controversies, calling it academic freedom, and calling creationism something else but using the work “science.” Some public teachers ignore the curriculum and skip over evolution for creationism, telling their students that the Bible is more accurate than science.

On another front, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) lambasted the GOP after the last election for being the party of stupid, saying that they could not win elections if they kept the party tent small. Since then, Jindal figured that he had to assimilate the stupidity in order to be a viable GOP presidential candidate. His refusal to accept federal funding denies health care coverage to about 400,000 low-income Louisiana adults. As Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pointed out,  the state’s overall national health ranking is 49th. Women in the state have lower-than-average cases of breast cancer, but the state also ranks 49th in breast cancer deaths.

When the federal government denied Louisiana funding for a program, however, Jindal got mad. The Young Marine Program, run by the Bossier County sheriff’s office, has a “special emphasis on the love of God” and requires that participants attend church. After Sheriff Julian Whittington refused to make the program open to all, he lost federal funding and believes that his rights are being violated. He said he doesn’t need money for the program; he just thinks that the federal government should give funding to religious programs.

After Whittington sent a letter of protest to the governor, Jindal spoke at the July Fourth “In God We Trust Rally” about how the government overreaches, prayer is not contagious, and freedom of religion doesn’t equal freedom from religion. Jindal, raised Hindu, should understand the unconstitutionality of oaths mandating obligations to “God” and requirements to attend “church.” Maybe conservatives just want a Christian mandate to receive federal aid for anything.

Hobby Lobby will continue its argument that corporations can be religious with the permission of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said that the arts and crafts company can proceed with its lawsuit against Obamacare because it requires that they offer birth control to their employees. The company will not be required to pay fines while the case is pending.

The judges wrote:

“Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable. The question here is not whether the reasonable observer would consider the plaintiffs complicit in an immoral act, but rather how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity.”

Hobby Lobby and other companies challenging the contraception mandate claim that the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman’s womb. In fact, the medication keeps the ovary from releasing an egg before it can become fertilized, thus avoiding pregnancy. The company wants to impose its religious–and non-scientific–beliefs on its employees.

The Family Research Council is working with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and other anti-LGBT lawmakers to legislate an Ex-Gay Pride Month “to recognize former homosexuals.” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), the lead sponsor of the House bill to implement a constitutional ban on gay marriage, has been invited as speaker at the inaugural dinner for the project on July 31. The initiative comes on the heels of the closing of Exodus International, shutting down after over 30 years of “curing” gays and lesbians after its leader, Alan Chambers, realized that there is no “cure.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the man who refused to allow LGBT people into his Catholic Church until they washed their hands, is back in the media again. Documents released last week show that he protected pedophile priests while investigating charges against other priests. Six thousand pages of documents show how the Milwaukee archdiocese regularly reassigned priests to new parishes or paid them as much as $20,000 to leave the church after they were accused of sexual molestation. In addition to the payoff, priests were given a $1,250 monthly pension benefit and health and dental insurance, according to the released documents.

While Archbishop of Milwaukee, Dolan also asked the Vatican for permission to transfer $57 million to a trust fund so that it could be protected against court action. The Milwaukee archdiocese then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming that they lacked the finances to settle claims with the victims. Dolan denied these actions, calling the payoff accusation “false, preposterous and unjust.” This information may explain why Dolan wasn’t chosen Pope last spring.

Things are getting ugly in the world of Southern conservative religion. During his sermon, preacher Jim Standridge, 76, of the Immanuel Baptist Church in Skiatook (OK) called out a congregant for falling asleep. Then he attacked another one: “Where have you been? You’re one of the sorriest church members I have! You’re not worth 15 cents.”  Immediately following that statement, Standridge told the man to stand up, said he loved him, and gave him a hug. The rest of the sermon was peppered with other comments directed at churchgoers. To the man operating the church camera, he said, “If you loved me and submitted to me, you wouldn’t go about establishing your own kingdom in the video room!”

Standridge, a preacher for 50 years, said that he models his discipline of church members on the way that parents should discipline a child. He claims that these members “love and esteem” him.”

Disasters are usually blamed on LGBT people, this time the forest fires in Colorado. On Generations Radio, Colorado pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner added the state’s liberal abortion laws to the recent SCOTUS rulings legalizing some same-sex marriages as reasons for these tragedies. Their hypothesis is a bit off because the highly conservative city of Colorado Springs was hardest hit. Their belief in the punishment of God would therefore need to arrive at the conclusion that God is punishing the conservatives for their narrowness.

May 5, 2013

Some Science Teachers Fail Students

Students throughout the nation are being taught Bible fiction instead of scientific fact thanks to fundamentalists conservatives. Louisiana seems to be the current leader in its faulty education; at least they’re recently getting the most publicity. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who decried the GOP for being crazy and stupid, seems to have changed his mind, perhaps building up his creds for GOP presidential candidate in 2016. .

When an attempt was made in April to overturn the 5-year-old Louisiana Science Education Act allows science teachers to provide instruction in creationism and belief that climate change is a myth, Jindal pushed to retain the law, asking “What are we afraid of?” Most rational, intelligent people in the United States are afraid of an ignorant generation of people who are taught falsehoods in schools that taxpayers fund.

Jindal should be afraid of something else—loss of state funding. As Louisiana State University’s former graduate dean of science, Kevin Carman, pointed out, “Pseudo-science drives scientists away.”  Students with training in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can earn the most, but they won’t get jobs in cutting-edge scientific fields with biblical information.

Despite the urging of over 70 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, the state’s Senate Educational Committee voted 3-2 to retain the law to tech biblical information in science class as fact. Jindal joined conservatives in claiming that teaching this false information strengthens education through promoting critical thinking, claiming that students should be allowed to  “make up their own minds.” Maybe about whether the earth is flat?

Jindal has proved himself even farther right than 700 Club televangelist Pat Robertson, who opposes teaching creationism as science. Recently Robertson said that science is right and “if you fight science, you’re going to lose your children.”

Claude Bouchard, a former executive director of the top-notch Pennington Research Center, talked about the loss to students by maintaining the Science Education Act:

“[Students] will continue to believe that the laws of chemistry, physics and biology are optional when addressing the big issues of our time. Unfortunately, this is also not without economic consequences. If you are an employer in a high-tech industry, in the biotechnology sector or in a business that depends heavily on science, would you prefer to hire a graduate from a state where the legislature has in a sense declared that the laws of chemistry, physics or biology can be suspended at times or someone from a state with a rigorous science curriculum for its sons and daughters?”

Peter Kulakowsky, a biotech entrepreneur in Louisiana, recently wrote this to the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“As the director of a biological laboratory in Louisiana, I need enlightened staff. Distracting the state’s students in their formative training [through the Louisiana Science Education Act] only cripples them.”

Scientists and entrepreneurs have pointed out that the present is as disastrous as the students’ futures. Louisiana State University’s former graduate dean of science, Kevin Carman, testified before the state legislature in 2012 that top scientists who left the university cited the Louisiana Science Education Act as a reason. He added that other scientists accepted jobs elsewhere, because they didn’t want to come to a state with a creationism law. “Teaching pseudo-science drives scientists away,” Carman said.

After the passage of the bogus science education law, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology cancelled a scheduled convention in New Orleans in 2011, costing the city an estimated $2.9 million. The organization also launched a boycott of Louisiana, causing the state to become less competitive at attracting conventions.

The boycott for New Orleans was called off after its city council endorsed a repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act and the Orleans Parish School Board banned the teaching of creationism in its schools. With the creationism being taught in the rest of the state, however, New Orleans is having difficulty finding qualified employees in science. Kristin Gisleson Palmer, a member of the city council, said:

“With the New Orleans Medical Corridor poised for tremendous growth, this law also profoundly impacts our ability to fill jobs in the cutting-edge science fields with students educated in our state’s public schools.”

Tennessee has passed a copycat bill, and other states introduce creationism bills every year. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that advocates for intelligent design, is circulating a model bill nationwide with similar bills introduced in Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Although the Supreme Court has ruled against teaching religion in public school science classes, teachers still use actual science textbooks and then “supplement” these with biblical fiction.

Private schools are not bound by the SCOTUS ruling which is why a South Carolina private school can get away with this little quiz for fourth graders.

4th-Grade-test

This looks too far-fetched to be true, but fact-checkers have discovered that kids were actually given this test.

protest at teaching fiction as fact in the Blue Ridge Christian Academy in the Greenville area has brought out the rage from the Christian right, as shown by a column from Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis president. He probably feels that he needs to attack the protesters as “atheists” because he sells the DVD used as the basis for the test.

It’s hard to know what else is being taught in the thousands of the nation’s private schools, many of them funded by taxpayers because of the religious right pushing against separation of church and state. They may be showing this video, created by the fundamentalist Faith 2 Action group, that states, “Being gay is three times more dangerous than smoking.”

The video begins with bizarre parodies of Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate called  Heather has Two Cigarettes and Daddy’s Roommate has Lung Cancer. During the reading, the narrator, Janet Porter, compares smoking with homosexuality as health dangers with the latter being far more dangerous.

Pennsylvania is another state where students are being denied a good education, even in advanced placement classes, because 20 percent of science teachers believe in evolution. One of these teachers is Joe Sohmer (Altoona Area High School) who tells students that radiocarbon dating is wrong because the world is less than 10,000 years old. A national survey of 900 science teachers shows that 13 percent agree with Sohmer.

Teachers identifying themselves as creationists, according to the national survey, spend at least an hour of classroom time teaching that creationism is a valid scientific alternative. An unnamed Indiana County science teacher said that he teaches evolution principles “but modified to explain that data can be interpreted differently dependent upon one’s world view.” Duquesne University biology professor David Lampe, who organizes the university’s Darwin Day celebration each February, found that between 25 and 30 percent of freshman biology students have had no instruction on evolution.

Forty-six percent percent of people in the United States believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, a percentage the same as 30 years ago. One-third of the respondents think that humans evolved with God’s guidance, and 15 percent say that human evolution is not connected with God.

Apparently the United States is currently not evolving.

November 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:15 PM
Tags: , , , ,

With all the big stories out there—especially the David Petraeus scandal—some of the other information is falling through the cracks. Here’s an attempt to pull them back out.

Bobby Jindal shows the deep schism in the GOP with this statement: “It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that. It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

One newly elected Republican senator also understands the GOP’s serious problems. Ted Cruz, a Canadian-born Cuban-American from Texas told The New Yorker: “In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat. If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat… If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to two-seventy electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party.” Cruz indicated that he might be aiming for the presidency. There may be a crowd in 2016.

Former VP Republican candidate Paul Ryan (doesn’t the word “former” sound wonderful!) has another reason for his loss. He had no idea that the “urban turnout” would be so huge. Is there something about vote suppression that he knew and we didn’t? Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to work. And another question for Rep. Ryan (R-WI). When he bragged that he and Mitt Romney would win, he said that could justly claim a mandate to push through his initiatives. He lost. Maybe that means that Barack Obama and Joe Biden now have a mandate to push through their initiatives. 

Wisconsin is still as crazy as ever. Refusing to accept that Obamacare is the law of the land, nine members of the state legislature serving for the next two years are backing a bill to arrest any federal officials who try to implement the health care law. Eight of these nine also want to write a law that would see Transportation Security Administration agents charged with sexual assault if they conduct pat-downs of passengers going through airport security. Other positions they support are carrying guns without permits and blocking state funding for the federal Real ID law that requires states to develop more secure driver’s licenses.

The GOP is finding less and less support for their opposition to Obamacare. The latest poll, one from the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, shows that 49 percent of Americans want this health care as compared to 33 percent for the opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The percentage of approval just keeps growing.

In their public statements since President Obama was re-elected, conservatives have been speaking about the GOP compromise for the tax problem—to follow the Romney proposal. The Republican definition of compromise is still “do exactly what we want.” They have a few days left to legislate, considering that they meet a small percentage of the time, in the less than seven weeks before the 112th Congress is finished.

There’s a good chance that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) will chair the House Judiciary Committee, starting in January. This is the man who thinks that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional. In fact, he thinks most of what the government does is unconstitutional.

Arizona still can’t decide one House and one Senate seat because over 324,000 ballots of the 1.8 million cast in the state are still not counted. Although the count must be finished by Friday, the pace is slow—only 18,000 finished today. Meanwhile Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) assumed that he had been elected for the Senate without the counts done and showed up at the freshmen orientation, one of only three new Republican senators as compared to the eight Democrats. Krysten Sinema, a bisexual woman who calls herself “non-theist,” has been declared the winner of a House seat after an extremely tight race, making four Democrats and four Republicans in the House from this traditionally red state.

The ninth House seat is up in the air, lacking counts and in court after Republican contender Martha McSally wanted some of the ballots pulled for improprieties. She seemed fine with the counting process until she started losing. A judge left the decision open this afternoon regarding McSally’s demand for a half to 130 ballots, ordering that the ballots be counted and kept separate until a later ruling.

At this time, Democrat Ron Barber, former aide to Gabby Gifford who was seriously wounded almost two years ago, has a lead of 879 votes. The number of uncounted ballots from this district, CD2, is not available, but 26,000 ballots are still not counted in Pima County where Barber has a lead of 8,700 votes. McSally is ahead by about 8,000 votes in Cochise County that still has 9,000 uncounted ballots, including 2,300 provisional ballots that must be verified.

The infamous Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio who is positive that President Obama’s birth certificate is false, who has declared a vendetta against Hispanics, and who perpetrated a large number of abuses on the prisoners of the county jail is losing his lead. In the past few days, it has gone from 53 percent to 51 percent with tens of thousands of county ballots still not counted.

Megyn Kelly may have had the best quote of Election Night when she said to Karl Rove on the Fox network as he scrambled for numbers that would prove Romney had not lost Ohio: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” This is the woman who complained about Candy Crowley’s moderating of the VP debate, had a hissy fit about Sandra Fluke who Rush Limbaugh had designated as “slut,” and declared pepper spray “a food product” after students at UC Davis were shot in the eyes with the high-grade commercial product.

After this one slip, Kelly is back in the fold, calling Bill O’Reilly’s racist remarks “interesting.” Her contract is up this coming summer, and Howard Kurtz guesses that she may be headed for greater things than a daytime show.

At a white supremacist rally in North Carolina, the 50 protesters from the National Socialist Movement and the KKK were outnumbered five to one by red-nosed, squeaky toyed clowns who threw white flour in the air every time that the protesters chanted “White Power.” The protest was expanded with the presence of 75 police officers.

 

August 27, 2012

Cut Defense; Leave NOAA, FEMA, Safety Net Alone

The GOP convention was intended to be the big story for this week until Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) brought abortion and rape into the dialog and dug up the GOP’s position. The biggest story, however, is Tropical Storm Isaac which probably will become a hurricane before landfall somewhere in the Gulf Coast states.

Gov. Bobby Jindal cancelled his speech at the GOP convention to get back to Louisiana because of the threat to New Orleans, and Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott dropped out of the convention to protect his state. Nobody knows Isaac’s actual destination when it’s predicted to his land early Wednesday morning. Governors of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have started evacuations in their states and joined Scott in declaring emergencies.

The irony of the Isaac story is that Republicans have received early warning after trying to drastically cut funds for disaster preparedness and response. Their continuing resolution 2011 budget shrank funding for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Operations, Research, and Facilities by $454.3 million. The National Weather Service, part of NOAA, lost $126 million; FEMA dropped $24.3 million with FEMA state and local programs losing $783.3 million. Fortunately, this budget didn’t stick.

As part of last August’s Budget Control Act, Republicans agreed to make it easier to fund disaster relief but then reneged on this agreement. This isn’t new. Back in his 2009 response to the State of the Union, Jindal ridiculed the stimulus for having “$140 million for something called volcano monitoring.” Jindal is governor of a state that has hurricanes, not volcanoes. Not everyone else in the United States is in the same situation.

NOAA warned Congress that Republican cuts would stop them from warning people about hurricanes five to ten days out because of its aging satellites. Without the funding, the United States could go up to 18 months or even longer without any satellites.  If that were to happen, the Republicans might not know a hurricane is imminent for their 2016 convention.

Even when NOAA doesn’t want extra money for a project, Congress refused to allow them to make their activities more efficient. Last fall, when NOAA wanted to reorganize its existing climate capabilities and services into a “single point of entry” for users, Congress said no. NOAA cannot be permitted to “more efficiently and effectively respond to the rapidly increasing demand for easily accessible and timely scientific data and information about climate that helps people make informed decisions in their lives, businesses, and communities.”

The idea was that efficient, up-to-date information is important because of the likelihood of more droughts, floods, and storms; Republicans can’t admit that climate is changing. Since Congress turned down NOAA’s proposal, the organization has announced the last year and last half year are the hottest on record. The second half of this past June saw at least 170 all-time high temperatures either broken or tied. As of July 3, 56 percent of the contiguous U.S. experienced drought conditions, the largest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor. During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 consecutive months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323.

When disastrous tornadoes hit Missouri, Republicans threatened to hold up any assistance until there were cuts in other places. The same for Virginia’s earthquake and the east coast’s Hurricane Irene.  A year ago House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) demanded that “that no more money be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere”—until he asked for FEMA money for his own district a month later.

If Republicans don’t get the FEMA aid that they request, they are angry. When FEMA refused a request for federal aid for wildfire victims in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin called a government agency’s rejection letter “bureaucratic” and “cruel.”

If anything is “bureaucratic” and “cruel,” it’s the Republicans’ refusal to allow states’ residents to get the health care from the federal government that costs the states nothing. Texas is a prime example: the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld Texas’s decision to deny women any health care through Planned Parenthood or other clinic that simply makes referrals for abortions.  The court decision will deny health care to at least 50,000 women.

Texas has also refused to accept the federal money that would provide Medicaid for people with salaries between one-fourth of the poverty level and one and one-fourth of the poverty level. Because of Gov. Rick Perry’s arrogance and indifference, families making between $5,000 and $25,000 will not qualify for Medicaid or any other remedy from the Affordable Care Act. That’s bureaucratic and cruel.

If Republicans want FEMA help for people who need assistance, they need to allocate funds for it. They also need to revise their position in denying all people any safety net except the wealthy—who don’t need it. And they need to stop using their personal morality to control women.

Where can the government get the money to help people? Defense expenditures went from $583.38 billion in 2003 when we were in two wars to $711.42 billion in 2011 when we were no longer in war. About a half century ago, Dwight Eisenhower said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” We are now living in Eisenhower’s nightmare.

If Republicans want small government, they should start with the defense budget. Support the programs that actually help people, such as the safety net and NOAA.

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