Nel's New Day

December 31, 2018

Shutdown, Cracks in Democracy on Last Day of 2018

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 5:05 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Day Ten of Government Shutdown: Not satisfied with taking paychecks from 800,000 federal workers, almost half of them required to keep working, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has signed an executive order to freeze pay for about two million public employees in the coming year. He canceled a scheduled 2.1 percent pay raise that would almost keep wages up with rising inflation. After signing $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, DDT decided that he didn’t want a deficit. Many “furloughed” workers—including janitors, security guards, and cafeteria workers in federal buildings won’t be paid after they were told not to come to work because companies can’t bill the government for services that shut down. Congress could override DDT’s order with a two-thirds veto-proof vote in both chambers.

DDT’s threat to close down the southern border if he doesn’t get his wall soon could cost the U.S. commerce a billion dollars every day, a spike in car prices, and problems with factories. Another casualty would be foods that come to the U.S. from Mexico while the weather keeps agricultural production in the United States. Arizona, Michigan, Texas, and Utah—all DDT states—each sent over one-fourth of their exports to Mexico las year. Workers in both Mexico and U.S. comprise a majority of the almost one-million legal border crossings each day. A six-hour closure between San Diego and Tijuana last Thanksgiving cost the local economy $5.3 billion.

The longest government shutdown in history began in 1995 when House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) led the Republicans to cut Medicare. President Bill Clinton refused. After 21 days, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KA) led his GOP members to pass the appropriations bills without Gingrich’s cuts to Medicare, and the House voted the same way. Todd Purdum writes that Gingrich later admitted that part of the reason he closed the government in November 1995 before the December 16 shutdown was that Clinton had pub in a rear cabin on Air Force One while returning from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Jerusalem and made him exit by the rear stairs. Gingrich knew that Clinton wouldn’t sign a bill that increased Medicare premiums and cut environmental regulations. “It’s petty,” Gingrich said, “but I think it’s human.” Clinton’s stance on both shutdowns helped him win the 1996 election, but Gingrich got his revenge by working with Monica Lewinsky to force Clinton into an impeachment. The question is what consequences will come out of the current White House tantrum leading to the 2018-19 shutdown.

Lest anyone think that DDT is not “working” on the last day of 2018, he is still angrily tweeting. One claim calls out former chief of staff John Kelly in his statement that the “wall” doesn’t have to be concrete. He wrote, “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media.” Like a king, DDT is waiting at the White House for the Democrats, excoriated in his tweets, to come begging to give him funding for his wall. In one tweet, he blamed Democrats for the death of two Guatemalan children in ICE custody this month, writing that the wall would have stopped it. He also tweeted to Democrats that he was sitting in his office waiting for them to come and give him his wall although a reporter found no Marine posted outside the door of the office.

Republicans take pride in their cruelty toward people in the United States with the statement that “Elections have consequences.” When Democrats and progressive ballot measures succeeded in the midterms, however, the GOP in several states refused to take the consequences of the party’s failures. Instead, they spent the last few weeks of the term during the lame-duck session by destroying the will of the people through democracy.

Despite gerrymandering and voter suppression, Michigan and Wisconsin became the poster states with dozens of bills to overturn policies won by majority vote and restrict elected Democratic officials. Many of the new laws reversed increases in the minimum wage and expansion of voting rights.

Michigan passed over 400 bills in less than two months, many of them signed by outgoing GOP Rick Snyder. He did veto four bills that exceeded legislative powers. The legislature may have blocked the use of growing cannabis for personal use, changing the way to appoint the non-partisan commission, and requiring voters to register at a county clerk’s office rather than the polls which removes the approval for same-day voter registration by a majority of the state’s population. Earlier the legislature had blocked a ballot measure on raising the minimum wage and paying sick time by enacting the proposals and then immediately removing these provisions with a simple majority after the midterm election. The legislative action on sick leave exempts almost 40 percent of Michigan workers. To block future ballot measures, legislators made the process of collecting signatures far more difficult and costly. Other lame-duck laws give a $115 million corporate tax cut and mandates that doctors prescribe abortion pills in person.

Other Michigan laws restrict powers of incoming Democrats—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, AG Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson—all of whom replaced Republicans. Limitations include the governor’s authority in blocking a pipeline across the Strait of Mackinac, the AG from withdrawing from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act without legislative permission, and the secretary of state in increasing voter access.

More Michigan laws passed after the election of Democrats:

  • State agencies must prove “clear and convincing” need to impose strong state regulations than federal ones.
  • A $1.3 billion online sales tax revenue was diverted from schools to roads and other priorities.
  • A grading system of A through F is mandated for public schools.
  • Federal toxicity values instead of those established by states must be used for cleaning up hazardous substances.
  •  A measure requiring permits for degrading wetlands made key concessions to developers.
  • Municipalities not already imposing licensing requirements on specific occupations cannot pass ordinance to do so.
  • States agencies may not use drones to surveil facilities subject to licensing or other government requirements.
  • The hunting age for deer, bear, and elk on public lands was reduced to ten years old.

The busy Michigan legislators will probably be crushed by some of Gov. Rick Snyder’s vetoes. A major veto was on the bill that would have permitted legislators to interfere in court cases. In neighboring Wisconsin, losing Gov. Scott Walker signed every lame-duck bill given him, many of them ones that copied those in Michigan. Wisconsin must remain in lawsuits opposed to the ACA, and the new governor cannot dissolve Walker’s misnamed Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) which gives loans and incentives to businesses connected with Walker and other Republicans. The legislature now has oversight instead of the governor. Other laws require Medicaid recipients to have drug-testing requirements that have not worked in other states and limits early voting to two weeks. Permits granted to the hugely expensive project that acquired large subsidies from Wisconsin taxpayers, Foxconn, have been moved from the GOP AG to the GOP legislature.

Walker’s power grabs caused even his staunch GOP supporters to say that his actions will “destroy” his legacy, already one that destroys the formerly progressive state. Despite its promises, Republicans failed to protect affordable insurance on pre-existing conditions as the ruling from a judge in Texas endangers the future of this health care that people overwhelming desire.

In one day, Wisconsin’s GOP senators approved 82 Walker government appointees a month before he left office, including two members to the state’s public university board. One of the positions had been empty for over a year. Thirty of the appointments had no public hearing, and some had failed to file a statement of economic interest. Eight years ago, Walker urged outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle not to “finalize any permanent civil service personnel” during his last two months in office, writing about “common practice for political appointees to use this time to ‘bump down’ into permanent civil service positions.” He added:

“I believe these appointees should be required to go through the same application process as any other civil servants and my Administration will review any new permanent hires during the next two months so they can be considered for termination during the probationary period.”

Walker also recently gave the outgoing attorney general a seat on a court in Waukesha County ― a position that doesn’t require state Senate approval.

Residents in both Michigan and Wisconsin resent handouts to large corporations, especially Walker’s $4.5 billion in state and local subsidies to Foxconn. The state is not scheduled to break even on the deal until 2043. Snyder’s Michigan “mega-deals” with incentives over $50 million” drain education, healthcare, transportation, and parks. The deals claim to create jobs, but the 29 big deals that cost taxpayers $7.1 billion include General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler. Incentives average $465,000 per job, and advantages may not appear for years.

Florida’s new GOP governor-elect Ron DeSantis plans to stall any enactment of the state’s successful ballot measure, passed by an almost 65-percent vote, to return voting rights to felons completing their sentences. Legislative language could also restrict the law’s intent. A lawsuit could run into problems because DeSantis will replace three liberal-leaning justices immediately after he is sworn in, leaving the court with a six-to-one conservative majority.

Pennsylvania tried to unseat a legally elected state legislator, Ohio introduced legislation to stop people from amending the state constitution because a popular vote restricted gerrymandering, Missouri tried to block a stop to election fraud by popular vote, Georgia purged voters from registration rolls with no excuse, and North Carolina can’t seat a U.S. representative because he bought absentee ballots that would then be used to pad his vote. The Republicans grow more and more desperate because they know they cannot win elections with illegal election fraud and drawing districts that always favor the GOP.

Happy New Year!

November 19, 2018

Midterm Elections: A Postmortem

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 11:43 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

EPA/CHRIS TODD

The midterm elections of 2018 are winding down. Only two House races are still undecided, a Georgia Republican ahead by 29 votes out of over 280,000 votes and a Utah Democrat with a 739-vote lead with 270,000 votes. Without those two decisions, Democrats gained 38 seats to have the majority of 233 to the 200 GOP seats. Georgia will definitely go to a recount. In the Senate, four Democrats lost their seats, and two Republicans lost theirs. With the determination that Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott took the U.S. Senate seat, the Senate settled in with 52 Republicans out of 100 as it waits for the election in Mississippi on November 27. Usually, that state would automatically pick a Republican, but Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (left) has made a poor showing lately, seeming to laud lynching and criticized the legality of black college students voting.

Now that Republicans won three important races—Florida’s governor and U.S. senator and Georgia’s governor—Scott and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) decided that the elections are not rigged. The question will always be there, however, as the winning GOP Florida candidate for senator and Georgia candidate for governor control the elections that they won.

An opinion piece by Abe Rakov in conservative USA Today states:

“We’re seeing Republican politicians run a political strategy to manipulate who can vote and, ultimately, remake the electorate in their favor. They’re trying to rig our elections because they don’t think they can win any other way. It’s cheating, it’s wrong and it’s anti-democratic.

“Jason Kander and I started Let America Vote in 2017 to create political consequences for politicians who try to stop eligible voters from voting. Over 65,000 people across the country have signed up to volunteer to help us in that effort. Through this November and beyond, Let America Vote is going to fight back against these proposals because our democracy is bigger than politicians who will do anything to win an election.”

Florida GOP Influence over Voting:

Scott kept the painfully inept election supervisor Brenda Snipes in her position after many missteps, one of which took her to court. Kitty Garber, research director and co-founder of the nonpartisan Florida Fair Elections Coalition, said that Snipes’ “behavior has disproportionately harmed Democratic candidates. When absentee ballots go missing in largely Democratic Broward County, you can be sure that most of them belong to Democratic voters.”

Scott also tried to use law enforcement to control the voting process and filed several lawsuits.

Truthout did a detailed analysis of data available in the election to show how computer software can manipulate voter outcome and what happened in Florida.

Absentee ballots may not have been counted if they were locked in a mail facility after the Florida man sent pipe bombs through the USPS.

The pastor of a church posted this sign when it was used as a polling place:

Don’t vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing, ‘Oh how I love Jesus’ on Sunday.”

Georgia GOP Influence over Voting:

The GOP may use voter suppression in Georgia as a model for future efforts.

Brian Kemp, the candidate for governor and coincidentally state secretary of state, “doxed” 291,164 absentee voters by posting their personal details online for anyone to download. “Doxing” has become a common harassment practice of posting people’s personal information, including addresses, phone numbers, and even Social Security numbers.

Some voters waited over four hours to vote in suburban Atlanta. The state installed only three voting machines in a Fulton County polling place; Atlanta is in Fulton County. In other areas, the voting machines were broken or automatically registered Kemp’s name when voters selected his opponent.

Kemp refused to have any paper trail for the voting machines.

Voters also faced intimidation in several states:

Texas (where Rep. Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz by 220,000 votes out of 8.3 million): An election judge was filmed screaming at a black voter and threatening to call the police when the voter asked where she was supposed to vote. The DHS had planned a “crowd-control” exercise near a Latinx neighborhood in El Paso but decided to cancel the exercise after critics pointed out its intimidation effort.

Virginia: A DDT supporter stood outside a polling place with a German Shepherd that barked at voters. A member of the GOP said that the man is a known, excited DDT supporter who would do no harm.

Idaho: Intimidating signs regarding student voting were posted at polling places.

Tennessee: Five or six men outside a polling place told voters they should not be voting.

Indiana: At least one voting machine refused to accept votes for Democrats.

Arizona: Republicans sued to keep mail-in ballots from being counted because the 15 county recorders done have the same standard for adjusting problems. Two counties being sued allow people to verify their signatures up to five days after the election; both are major Democratic-leaning urban counties. (Democrat Kyrsten Sinema finally won her election for U.S. Senate.)

Those who criticize Democrats for more wins or claim that Republicans are better because the Dems picked up “only” 38 to 40 seats in the House aren’t aware of the control on elections from the GOP gerrymandering. Wisconsin is a classic case. This chart tells it all: Democrats won in all state elections and cast more votes for people in the state legislature while losing almost two-thirds of the seats. State assembly Democratic minority leader Gordon Hintz pointed out the lack of competitive districts, the reason that a district court ruled the legislative maps unconstitutional. The case, Gill v. Whitford, went to the Supreme Court, which sent it back to a lower federal court. These maps

Richard Hasen wrote that Wisconsin’s continued gerrymandering is thanks to retired Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy. Last summer, the court unanimously determine that plaintiffs had not proved they had standing to sue because they didn’t suffer direct injury. In 2004, Kennedy demanding a “workable standard” to decide if partisan decisions on district crossed a constitutional line. The court managed to avoid making any decision about whether the U.S. Constitution forbids gerrymandering and, if so, standards for decisions. The Republicans in Wisconsin draw the districts to favor Republicans so that Republicans can continue drawing districts to favor Republicans.

A contrast in House districts can be found in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. After a court order mandated redrawing districts, Pennsylvania went from solidly GOP to one evenly split. North Carolina stayed overwhelmingly GOP with the Republican-drawn map despite an even split in party votes for the delegation members. Associated Press determined that more states have GOP-tilted districts than Democratic ones.

Karma came to the GOP sponsor of the restrictive North Dakota law mandating that no one (aka Native Americans) could vote if they didn’t have an ID with a street address. A Native American Democrat beat him in the election. And the Georgia secretary of state vote goes into a runoff on December 4.

This election breakdown as of November 16 shows the great diversity of Democrats in the 116th Congress, starting in January 2019. Of the 36 women additions to the House this coming year, one is a Republican.

 

 

November 13, 2018

Lawyers Winners of Elections, Other Lawsuits

The real winners of the midterm elections and the first 662 days of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office are the lawyers. Nowhere has this been more obvious in the past week than in the South where Georgia and Florida Republican officials—candidates for offices—are screaming “fraud” and charging off to the courts.

During a campaign rally a few days before the 2016 presidential election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election—if I win.” He won and accepted the electoral vote although not the popular vote—which he lost. Now he’s losing in at least three states and refusing to accept the midterm election races.

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over his opponent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) dwindles, Scott, also the U.S. Senate candidate, has been joined by Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to echo DDT’s cry of voter fraud despite disagreement from the state secretary of state, a Scott-appointed Republican. Scott didn’t object to GOP counties breaking his own emergency order when predominantly GOP Bay County, hit hard by a recent hurricane, allowed voters to illegally cast ballots by email.

Scott filed at least five lawsuits trying to defeat Nelson, including not counting all ballots received after Election Day which disenfranchises all overseas voters including veterans. Florida voters are now suing him for illegally abusing his position as governor to win his race for U.S. senator by stopping the counting of legal votes. Despite Scott’s lawsuits, Florida has started a machine recount of the vote and may have a manual vote if the difference in that election drops below 0.25 percent. Scott is ahead by about 12,000 votes in 8 million plus ballots before all have been counted; Florida’s gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is behind GOP Ron DeSantis by about 40,000 votes.

In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who resigned when he falsely declared himself governor-elect, has lost a lawsuit to block ballots. In this election of almost four million voters, his Democratic opponent, Stacy Abrams, is behind by about 58,000 votes, but a judge has ruled that provisional ballots must be counted because Kemp, in charge of elections, has not maintained voter information security, increasing the risk that his purge of over 700,000 names on the registered rolls was illegally “manipulated or mismanaged.” The court orders mandated publicity about a website for provisional ballot voters to find information about whether their provisional ballots had been counted and why. The judge stated that the ballots were rejected “through no fault of their own.”

Under Kemp, Georgia voter updates by people getting or renewing state driver’s licenses never moved into the state’s voter database, and they didn’t know that Georgia had illegally failed to register them to vote. State law mandates that provisional ballots are counted only if names are on the voter registration list where they may have been removed because of Kemp’s actions. The Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) requires the provisional ballots be counted if voters are eligible to vote.

Another judge ordered Georgia to count 5,000 ballots rejected because voters didn’t complete date of birth when signing mail-in ballot envelopes and ordered the state’s vote counting to continue until Friday instead of ending today. As of Sunday, Abrams needed 19,000 more votes to trigger a recount and 21,000 more to force a December runoff. The almost 22,000 provisional ballots plus over 2,000 ballots coming from overseas and military brings the total of uncounted ballots to nearly 29,000.

The November 27 run-off for U.S. Senate pits Mississippi candidates Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) against Mike Espy, behind by 8,000 votes, for the final two years of a senate term because neither candidates garnered 50 percent of the vote. At a campaign rally four days before the midterm elections, Hyde-Smith responded to a man who praised her, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Mississippi recorded at least 581 lynchings of black people, about 12 percent of the 4,743 between 1882 and 1968 and the most of any state in the country. DDT-supporter Hyde-Smith repeatedly refused to answer questions by saying that she had issued a statement calling the remark an “exaggerated expression of regard.”

DDT already lost the U.S. Senate position in Arizona that went to the Democrat Krysten Sinema. Opponent Martha McSally was gracious in her concession, perhaps because she expects to be appointed to former Sen. John McCain’s position if Jon Kyle leaves in January.

A sour-grapes failed GOP candidate for the Arizona legislature is suing her winning opponent, U.S.-born Latina Raquel Terán, accusing her of not being a U.S. citizen. Alice Novoa already sued Terán in 2012 for the same (non)offense, and the case was dismissed because her attorney provided the birth certificate. Novoa avoided $650 in court fees with her claim that she doesn’t work and has no income.

Nonelection lawsuits:

Maryland opened to door to lawsuits involving DDT’s unlawful appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting AG for Jeff Sessions replacement. Brian Frosh, Maryland AG, asked a federal judge to remove Whitaker from that position because the appointment is unconstitutional. This request is part of the state’s ongoing lawsuit to force DDT to retain a key provision of the Affordable are Act, including protections for people with pre-exiting conditions. Maryland AG Brian Frosh declared that any action Whitaker takes regarding the ACA for the federal government would be invalid because he cannot legally serve as acting AG and asks for an immediate injunction. In 2014, Whitaker maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the ACA was one of the worse rulings in its entire history.

DDT believes that he is protected in Whitaker’s appointment by the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, stating that a president may temporarily fill a vacancy for a position requiring Senate confirmation with any senior official who has been in the department for at least 90 days. Another statute makes the deputy attorney general next in line at the DOJ. The lawsuit maintains that a more specific law takes precedence over a more general law. The AG also argues that DDT should have less flexibility in replacing the AG because a president under investigation could install a “carefully selected senior employee who he was confident would terminate or otherwise severely limit” the inquiry. Whitaker is justifying his position with an 1898 Supreme Court Case supporting the appointment of the acting U.S. consult in the country that is now Thailand when no one else was available after the Senate-confirmed consult was sick. The argument against this case is that the AG office did not become vacant through an unexpected emergency and several Senate-confirmed DOJ officials are available.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has also called for hearings to address “serious questions” about his appointment because of Whitaker’s outspoken opposition to the Robert Mueller investigation.

In a First Amendment lawsuit, CNN is suing the White House for stripping Jim Acosta’s of his press credentials. Acosta was targeted after false accusations of “laying hands” on a press intern. The accurate video shows her stepping into his space to grab his microphone and his saying, “Pardon me, ma’am.” Also included in the suit are tops aides John Kelly, Sarah Sanders, Bill Shine, the head of the Secret Service, and the officer who took Acosta’s pass. After a complaint was filed, the White House claimed that Acosta lost his credentials because he refused to give up his microphone.

The DOJ has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop lawsuits in three courts of appeal—the 2nd, the 9th, and the D.C.—to block President Obama’s DACA program where these courts allow the program to continue.

DDT’s administration is also facing a lawsuit accusing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and a top deputy of sexism in determining their policy decisions. Filed in January, the lawsuit argues against DeVos’ prevention of Title IX guidance on handling campus sexual assault cases; the current filing adds that her decision was impacted by discriminatory and stereotyped views of women, based on evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. These records show that the Department of Education obtained input from sources pushing inflated and widely discredited statistics about false rape allegations. Another source came from Candice Jackson, who provided a book  Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (Laura Kipnis), that falsely described the Title IX guidance permitting women to seek legal recourse for “awkward sexual experiences” and then ask for protection from “sexual bogeymen.” Jackson also received information from Gordon Finley, part of the National Coalition for Men, who referred to the former Title IX guidance as a “war on men,” and she falsely maintained that 90 percent of sexual assault accusations come from misunderstandings or drunken regrets. Other sources provided prejudicial information to the department’s leaders about claims regarding sexual assault. DDT’s statements and behavior toward women also figure into the lawsuit’s amendment on sexism.

Two weeks ago, DeVos lost her court battle after she tried to end regulations helping defrauded students receive federal loan forgiveness and keep colleges from mandating arbitration for complaint resolution instead of going to court. President Obama’s consumer protections are now in effect.

November 10, 2018

Midterm Elections Not ‘Big Victory’ for GOP

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claims that Democrats want “to steal the election.” His proof? Democrats want to count every vote. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants new elections in Florida and Arizona because a continued count of ballots is favoring three Democrats, both governor races and the U.S. Senate race in Florida. GOP lawsuits against continuing to count ballots are flying fast and furious, and Gov. Rick Scott, also candidate for U.S. senator from Florida, wants to use his gubernatorial power to stop counting votes before his opponent gets a majority and at least manages a recount. And Republicans no longer care about the caravan in Mexico that consumed their media before the election.

Gov. Scott tried to stop the votes from being counted with the law enforcement after three-fourths of his lead on Election night disappeared, leaving him only 15,000 votes ahead. Candidate Scott is suing to block counting after accusing “liberal activists” of trying to “steal the election.”

Former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL), once a Republican, said his absentee ballot was rejected for “invalid signature.” Another voter was told that her signature with her finger on a smart pad at the polling place didn’t match the ID. Cindy McCain, widow of former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted about the vote counting issue:

“I am one of those mail in ballots. I was under the impression my vote was always counted.”

While Republicans win, GOP leaders stay quiet; the minute that the vote swings in the opposite direction, they go batsh*t crazy. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who once called Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) a “con man,” joined Scott in coming unglued about Broward County, home to almost two million people, taking longer to count votes than Bay County with 150,000 residents. Broward County leans Democrat, so Rubio alleges that “democrat lawyers” are descending on Florida “to try to steal a seat in the U.S. Senate.” The GOP game plan in Florida is the same as in 2000 when Al Gore supposedly lost Florida by 537 votes: stop the recount and declare Republicans the winner before the discovery that the Democrats have more votes.

With no evidence, DDT and his sort-of lawyer Rudy Giuliani leaped into the fray to portray the Florida counts as rigged, supporting Scott and Rubio in their unfounded claims of voter fraud. Despite lack of legal basis, Giuliani wants to “disqualify [Broward and Palm Beach] votes counted only after all other counties were finished.” He also referred to “[Clinton] Hillary’s lawyers trying to steal Florida election,” probably meaning Nelson’s lawyer Marc Elias who was Clinton’s general counsel during her 2016 presidential campaign. Fox’s Sean Hannity said, ““I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” meaning that he was born after 2000.

Three retired military leaders respond to GOP attempts to stop the voting in three of the 50 states:

“We, the men and women who served under our command, and everyone who served in the Armed Forces swore an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States. Many died, and many were wounded, protecting it, and our sacred right to vote — and see that vote counted.

“It is appalling that Trump Republicans in Florida, Arizona and Georgia are fighting to stop accurately counting all the votes, as they lose ground. It dishonors everything our troops have fought for, and died for.

“We want to be very clear: Taking actions to stop counting votes is not only un-democratic, it is downright un-American.” – General (US Army, Ret.) Wesley K. Clark, Major General (US Army, Ret.) Paul D. Eaton, and Brigadier General (US Army, Ret.) Steven M. Anderson

Despite GOP efforts to suppress the vote, at least 123 women—103 Democrats and 20 Republicans—will be in the 116th Congress beginning in January 2019, and another ten women could join them. Many of the women are “firsts” in congressional records: age, ethnicity, religion, and states that they represent. Barry Blitt celebrated these women for the New Yorker cover.

Six state legislative chambers also flipped from GOP to Democratic.

Democrats may have fewer senators, governors, and state legislatures, but they comprise the majority of state attorneys general. After flipping four seats in Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin from Republicans, the 27 Democratic AGs will continue to protect states and serve as a check to DDT’s executive orders. Another four AGs are in play as governors of Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming appoint three of them, and the statehouse in Maine elects one.

Voters in 37 states voted on a total of 157 ballot measures on Election Day; here’s sample of the mostly good news:

North Carolina: Voters blocked constitutional amendments that would have packed a state supreme court to continue more gerrymandering and voter suppression, measures that the courts had failed to stop earlier. A GOP election-rigging scheme blew up and installed a civil rights Democrat in the state Supreme Court that led to a court of five Democrats and two Republicans. Voters in the state did pass the GOP photo voter ID mandate, but the state Supreme Court could hear a lawsuit against it.

Michigan: Voters instated a fully independent redistricting commission, removing the ability of GOP lawmakers to gerrymandering congressional and legislative redistricting. Colorado and Missouri passed redistricting reform, and a similar measure in Utah has a one-point lead. To illustrate the importance of Michigan’s vote to remove gerrymandering, President Obama won the popular vote of the state by almost 60 percent in 2012, the same year that the GOP took over 60 percent of the U.S. representatives. Pennsylvania gained three Democratic seats in the House after the state’s Supreme Court struck down its gerrymandered maps last January. These six states show the effect of gerrymandering. [visual gerrymandering]

Maryland: Voters approved same-day voter registration by two to one. Michigan also passed the same law; 18 states and D.C. now let voters register at the same time that they vote on Election Day. North Carolina voters can register during the early-voting period. Other increased voting accessibility in Michigan include automatic voter registration, removal of the need for an excuse to vote absentee, protection of the straight-ticket voting option, and regular election audits for accuracy. Previously, Michigan Republican legislators had allowed unrestricted absentee voting only to voters 60 or older, the GOP base. Republicans also hate straight-ticket voting because it is more popular with blacks, who largely tend to be Democrats.

Nevada: Voters passed an automatic voter registration while doing business with the DMV. That brings the total of “motor-voter” registration to 13 states and D.C.

Florida: Voters overwhelmingly voted to allow people with felony convictions to vote—1.5 million citizens in the state. Laws like this passed in many states after the Civil War were intended to block black voters. Gov. Rick Scott almost ended clemency to return voting rights for specific individuals (aka non-GOP supporters) in 2011. People in prison, on parole or probation, and with murder or sexual offenses may not vote, allowing another 1.4 million people this right. The remaining question is whether Florida will require a poll tax in the form of repaying all court fines and fees, cutting the number to 840,000 new voters.

Michigan & Colorado: Voters elected Democrats for secretaries of state, positions that Republicans use to purge eligible voters. In New Hampshire, the newly-elected Democrat state legislature can replace longtime Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the Democrat-in-name-only appointed by Republicans. Georgia’s Democratic Secretary of State John Barrow, trailing by only 0.6 percent heads to a December 4 runoff. Arizona has called the position for its GOP candidate for the position, but the Democrat is behind by only 21,000 votes with hundreds of thousands of ballots left to be counted.

Idaho, Nebraska, & Utah: Medicaid expansion passed but failed in Montana.

Missouri & Arkansas: Voters passed minimum wage increases.

Washington: New gun control measures passed.

Missouri & Utah: Voters approved medical marijuana with that ballot measure the most popular one in Missouri. Thirty-three states and D.C. now have some form of legalized medical marijuana, and another 14 have laws allowing cannabis but limiting that THC content. Michigan passed recreational marijuana, bringing the total to ten states. Only North Dakota blocked a cannabis initiative, keeping medical marijuana but not approving recreational marijuana. Former AG Jeff Sessions, who declared a war on cannabis, has been fired.

Massachusetts: Voters stopped discrimination against transgender rights by keeping a 2016 law barring discrimination against transgender people in public spaces.

Oregon: Voters rejected a measure banning public funding for abortions available to low-income women. Alabama and West Virginia voters passed measures to prevent a woman’s right to have an abortion through “personhood,” but the initiative is unconstitutional until the GOP Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

In paranoid North Dakota, voters approved a change to the constitution: instead of “every citizen” can vote, they approved “only a citizen” can vote. And Colorado voted to prohibit slavery, once and for all, despite 35 percent of the voters—26 DDT-supporting counties of 64 in the state—supporting the practice as punishment for a crime.

Midterm elections are not over. Florida and Georgia are still counting votes for governor, and Arizona and Florida are doing the same for the U.S. Senate. Mississippi has a run-off for one of the U.S. senate positions as well as a congressional representative. Another dozen House races in nine states are still up in the air. And those undecided races don’t include the recounts and lawsuits that will emerge.

October 11, 2018

United States, A Banana Republic

“Banana Republic” is a term to describe governments with countries that suffer from lack of democracy and corruption. How the United States fits the description of a “banana republic”:

An extremely stratified social class with a large impoverished working class and an ultra-rich ruling-class plutocracy with a lack of a middle class and lack of upward mobility: The U.S. has had the highest income inequality and lowest upward mobility of any country in the developed world for several years, and it keeps worsening.

Government’s corrupt connection with big business: As in fascist countries, U.S. conservative politicians have supported the merger of state and corporate power by removing regulations, giving corporations billions of dollars in tax cuts and subsidies, and putting banks and corporations above the law. The person occupying the Oval Office is profiting with millions—possibly trillions—from domestic groups and foreign government encouraged to use his businesses despite his constitutional violation of the Emoluments Clause.

A male business, political, and military elite controlling the nation: In a circular pattern, politicians take money from business for campaigns in exchange for subserviency, and conservative politicians vote for increased military expenses to keep money flowing into their states. Lack of regulations moves wealth offshore while workers suffer. Conservative politicians put white conservative males into control on the courts, protecting only white males and big business and permitting illegal tax evasion. All new DDT judicial nominees are male, recognizing that “we the ruling males” are in charge instead of the constitutional “we the people.” Less than one-third of the U.S. population is white male, but they still control the nation.

Police corruption and expanding police state: The frequent pattern of using military equipment for police actions is like military actions in Iraq, and law enforcement increasingly kill people in “accidents” or badly orchestrated sting operations. Laws since 9/11 permit warrantless wiretapping and other tactics common in dictatorships.

Highest incarceration rate in the world: The 716 prisoners per 100,000 residents in the U.S. far exceed the 114 in Canada, the 79 in German, and even the 162 in Saudi Arabia. Privatized prisons have greatly increased the number of prisoners because the government gets kickbacks from these businesses for their campaigns that keep them the ruling party.

Lack of access to healthcare: Despite the Affordable Care Act, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) created a path to health insurance that doesn’t provide for pre-existing conditions, hospitalizations, maternal care, and other health needs by conning them into believing that they save money. DDT’s newest plan is like a person paying less for a car that doesn’t run. People in the U.S. pay more than most developed countries for healthcare expenses and are reduced to medical bankruptcies but are convinced that universal health care is evil.

Much shorter life expectancy in poor than wealthy: In one West Virginia county, life expectancy for males is 63.9 years compared to 81.6 years, 17.7 years higher, in affluent Fairfax County (VA)—a difference of 27 percent. Bangladesh life expectancy is higher than McDowell County (WV). U.S. women’s life expectancy was #41 in 2010.

Hunger and malnutrition: Banana republics are associated with food insecurity, but the need for food stamps in the U.S. has increased from one in 50 during the 1970s to one in eight with 50 million people, including 12 million children, suffering from food insecurity.

High infant mortality: Fifty-seven countries have a smaller infant mortality rate than the U.S. In first-day death rate, babies dying the day that they are born, the U.S. has the highest rate in the industrialized world, twice as many as in the European Union.

One idealistic view of saving the United States is to vote, and millions of people want to exercise their right to select their representatives in this republic. Yet conservative politicians block the ability for millions to vote. Beyond white males rigging the districts so that a state with a majority of Democrats will elect almost all Republicans for state and federal elected officials, voter ID laws that prevent people from voting. The following states have created these ways to keep people from voting:

Arizona: Secretary of State Michele Reagan won’t be required to update voter registration addresses of 384,000 Arizonans who moved since the last election, even if the Motor Vehicle Division system won’t change addresses until people “opt-in” to update their information in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act. When people show up at the wrong polling place because of Reagan’s inaction, the voter can go to the new address and cast a provisional ballot. The state, however, has a record of destroying these without recording them. Reagan said that she’ll fix the system sometime next year—after the midterm election. Maybe.

Florida: Whether prisoners and released felons can vote is dependent on state law. A few states don’t have restrictions against voting after the felons serve their sentence, but a few rely on “individual petitions.” Of the 6 million people with felony convictions permanently barred from voting, about 1.5 million of them are from Florida, and over 20 percent of them are black. Gov. Rick Scott is in charge of deciding whether each one can be permitted to vote, and he has granted only 8 percent of those requesting the right to vote with a backlog of over 10,000 not yet reviewed.

Georgia: Brian Kemp is the state Secretary of State and in charge of elections. Kemp is also running for governor. He is keeping 53,000 voter applications from being processed because of typographical errors. The list has a disproportionately high number of black voters. Kemp’s opponent is Stacey Abrams, a black woman. Because Kemp is in charge of elections, there is no proof that he legitimately won the primary to become candidate in the general election, especially after indications of voting corruption within the past few years. Kemp is also being sued for using a racially-biased methodology to purge 700,000 voters from the rolls in the past two years and failing to send notices of the removal to voters. That’s ten percent of registered voters. Kemp also kept the state from having a paper trail to its woefully inadequate digital voting system, allowing him more election corruption.

North Dakota: A state law, challenged but approved in court, mandates that all voter IDs have residential addresses. Even the Supreme Court thinks that people without street addresses should not have the right to vote. This law takes voting rights from the homeless and people living on Native American reservations who lack the “residential address.”

Texas: Delivering a letter demanding that Waller County address its problems with rejecting registrations of students at Prairie View A&M resulted in the arrest of the campaign staffer presenting the missive to a clerk. Jacob Aronowitz, a field director for Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel, photographed the clerk taking the letter, and the clerk objected. When he was arrested, Aronowitz called Siegal who heard Aronowitz asking why he was being held and telling the detaining officer that his lawyer, Siegel, was running for office. Aronowitz was asked for Siegel’s political party, and the officer kept Aronowitz’s phone with his records when he was released. The county gave students the address to use for registration because all students use one post office box and then refused to accept it on the last day to register, jeopardizing the registrations. The letter demanded that the county update the existing registrations because students had followed the county’s direction. Waller County is uncomfortable with students voting because the student body is 82 percent black while the county is 70.5 percent white. It opposed students’ right to vote until a 1979 case in the U.S. Supreme Court upheld students’ right to register at their college address. The county wouldn’t obey the high court ruling, declaring in 2004 that students were ineligible to vote because they failed to meet the residency requirement. The campus did not get a polling place until 2013. So the county, which does not want the students to vote, gave them the wrong address for registration, refused to accept the address they gave students, arrested a person obtaining verification that he delivered a letter of complaint, lied about his not identifying himself, asked for the political party of the person objecting, and refused to return the arrested party’s possessions when he was released.

Voting could help move the United States from a banana republic—if citizens get the permission to cast a ballot and their ballots are counted. Until that time, the U.S. will remain a banana republic.

September 17, 2018

Court Rulings Mostly Right Wrongs

Election Day is only 50 days away, and the GOP continues its attempts at voter suppression. In an honest move that may cause them to lose the 2018 North Carolina election, progressive groups Common Cause and the League of Women Voters that won the redrawing of gerrymandered districts said that there was not enough time to complete the task in the next two months. The contortions of district lines caused the state to have 10 of 13 seats in the U.S. House with only 53 percent of the vote.

The majority in a panel of three judges from the 9th Circuit, two appointed by George W. Bush, upheld Arizona laws that prevent anyone except a family member, caretaker, or postal worker from turning ballots into elections officials and blocked out-of-precinct voting. The decision is especially onerous for Native Americans who are many miles from both voting precincts and post offices. As usual, the fake reason for the law is to avoid voter fraud, but the rationale comes from white entitlement and lack of understanding about other cultures and living conditions. The decision will be appealed to the full court but stays in effect for the upcoming election.

A Missouri judge made Republicans happy when he removed a redistricting measure for this fall’s ballot.

Yet not all bodes well for Republicans in court decisions.

Federal prosecutors have postponed their demand that North Carolina state and local elections officials give them well over 20 million ballots, poll books, and voter authorization forms going back almost nine years by September 25. Subpoenas also required photo images of voters, and subpoenas to the state DMV required DMV voter registration documents and those completed in a language other than English from both citizens and people not born in the U.S. Almost 2.3 million absentee ballots could be traced back to individual voters which caused privacy concerns. The subpoenas for these records cited ICE and a grand jury in Wilmington as the source for the demand after U.S. Attorney Bobby Higdon announced charges against 19 non-U.S. citizens for illegal voting. A state audit counted 41 non-U.S. citizens acknowledged voting out of 4.8 million ballots. Higdon hopes to get the documents in January 2019.

A court in North Carolina also ruled in favor of expanding Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority to make certain appointments, ruling that the legislators had overstepped their authority and violated the separation of powers’ requirement. When Cooper was elected, the GOP legislature immediately passed several laws to restrict his abilities compared to that of his GOP predecessor.

For the second time in four years, federal judges struck down the GOP Virginia General Assembly boundaries of 11 electoral districts that pack minorities together so that white candidates in adjacent districts can win elections. Little progress has been made before the October 30 deadline. With the GOP failure to more forward, the governor has asked the GOP speaker of the state house to turn the project over to the courts. The districts will be used for state elections in 2019.

A Virginia judge also removed an independent candidate from the ballot in the 2nd District congressional race because of “forgery” and “out and out fraud” on her petition. Staffers working for the GOP candidate had collected many of the signatures to get her onto the ballot to split the progressive vote and ensure a win for their boss. Of the 377 signatures that five of them put on petitions, at least 146 were false, some of them for people who had died.

Florida Republicans thought they could keep Puerto Ricans who had fled their island after Hurricane Maria from voting if they refused them Spanish-language ballots. A district judge disagreed and ruled that 32 counties across the state had violated the Voting Rights Act. He ordered them to provide bilingual voting materials, including ballots and poll worker support, for Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican voters. According to his ruling:

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Unique among Americans, they are not educated primarily in English — and do not need to be. But, like all American citizens, they possess the fundamental right to vote.”

The enactment is on an expedited basis to give Florida officials “ample” time to appeal if “they seek to block their fellow citizens, many of whom fled after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, from casting meaningful ballots,” according to the judge. “It is remarkable that it takes a coalition of voting rights organizations and individuals to sue in federal court to seek minimal compliance with the plain language of a venerable 53-year-old law,” he added.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the so-called “charity” Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation, linked to billionaire Charles Koch, must disclose its donors to California officials. The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court reversed a lower court ruling from last year.

A grand jury will be convened to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016.

The court woes of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continue. He tried to get out of going to court over paying hush-money for a nondisclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels so that he and former attorney Michael Cohen don’t have to give dispositions. By not contesting the suit, DDT thinks that he has escaped, but Daniels still has a defamation suit against DDT.

The fate of DDT’s IRS returns is still in court, this time the Washington, D.C. Circuit. EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act case is arguing that IRS must release his returns to correct misstatements of fact about his financial ties to Russia in his tweets. At least two-thirds of people want DDT to release the returns. The 98-page financial disclosure that DDT is forced to make public shows that his biggest windfalls come from his property that he frequently visits. For example, he made $37 million from Mar-a-Lago, up from $15 million in 2015, and $20 from his nearby golf club.

A federal judge refused to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ruling that Texas and six other conservative states couldn’t prove irreparable harm from the program. He also stated that he believed the program is unconstitutional, but the time has passed to rescind it.

Cities can’t prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, according to a 9th Circuit Court ruling in Boise (ID). Six homeless people sued the city in 2009. The judge also wrote:

“A city cannot, via the threat of prosecution, coerce an individual to attend religion-based treatment programs consistently with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

A federal judge in Boston ruled that ICE should not remove undocumented people in the process of applying for green cards even if they have final orders of removal. The ruling may not require a penalty from the government or apply outside the New England area. Five couples are suing DHS, ICE, DDT, and law enforcement because spouses were detained by ICE when they went for marriage interviews with U.S.-citizen spouses, a requirement for the application process to prove they have legitimate marriages. Emails show coordination between ICE and Citizenship and Immigration Services to coordinate interviews and arrests. The suit began with a woman who was brought from Guatemala when she was three years old and married U.S. citizen Luis Gordillo. They have two children.

A Canadian court unanimously overturned Ottawa’s approval of a pipeline project because the government failed to consider concerns of some First Nations and did not consider the impact of increased tanker traffic. The pipeline, almost 700 miles long, would take bitumen from Alberta to the western ports to ship to Asia. The ship traffic has already had a devastating affect on southern resident orcas which are almost extinct.

Parents of a Sandy Hook victim may continue its defamation lawsuit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after his repeated lies that the 2012 massacre killing 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school was a “fraud.” Six other Sandy Hook families also filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones in May. Jones’ Infowars is also facing a lawsuit for misidentifying a person as the shooter at the Parkland (FL) school who killed 17 people and another defamation suit from the person who recorded the vehicular murder of Heather Heyer at the Charlottesville (VA) rally last year. Jones’ law firm is also representing the co-founder of the neo-Nazi, white supremacist website The Stormer.

An arbitrator has denied the NFL request to throw out Colin Kaepernick’s grievance that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests for social injustice. The ruling shows that Kaepernick has sufficient evidence of collusion for a lawsuit. Eric Reid’s grievance for joining the protests is still pending. The NFL had to put on hold its policy that would require players to stand if they are on the sideline during the national anthem because of problems that it classified protests as conduct detrimental to the team.

March 14, 2018

Students Protest for Gun Safety, Get No Help for Legislators

Tens of thousands of young people walked out of over 3,000 schools for 17 minutes between 10:00 and 10:17 am today to protest the lack of safety in public schools and mourn those lost in the most recent massacre from high-powered guns at a school. One month ago today—28 days—17 people were killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland (FL). Some students either didn’t go to school today or were on lockdown because of threats of violence. Other schools locked school doors or threatened long suspensions to keep students from leaving for 17 minutes. ACLU cautioned that the First Amendment prevents more stringent punishments for protests. that a punishment cannot be more for First Amendment rights than general rules. Many enlightened districts, like my small one on the Oregon coast, supported the students’ protest rights.

Florida GOP legislators initially denigrated the young people who begged them for gun safety laws, but some Republican legislators in Florida condescended to pass a new law, recently signed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

The first Florida gun safety law in 20 years provides $400 million for greater school safety, help with mental health, and gun training for teachers who are not limited to classroom duties; a ban on bump stocks that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like fully automatic firearms; permission to remove guns and ammunition with court orders; a three-day waiting period for purchases of long guns; and prohibition of gun sales to anyone under 21 except for law enforcement or correctional officers or military members.

The governor objected to the waiting period and arming teachers but still signed it. The NRA immediately filed a lawsuit against Florida for discrimination because no one under 21 can buy guns.

Several Democrats voted against the bill because it puts more guns in schools by arming teachers. Once again, a teacher, this one in Monterey County (CA) showed the danger when the trained reserve police officer “accidentally” charged his gun during a class on public safety. One student was injured in the neck. The class continued after the incident, and the parents took the student to a hospital after he went home. The teacher said he was pointing the gun at the ceiling to see if his gun wasn’t loaded.

White supremacists, including one middle school social studies teacher in Florida, support recruiting people to take over public schools by become teachers. With the pseudonym of Tiana Dalichov, 25-year-old Dayanna Volitch bragged on a podcast about teaching her students about the myth of different levels of intelligence among races, the importance of “eradication” of all Muslims, and the necessity for “annihilation” of North Korea. She also promotes the conspiracy theory that no one died at the Parkland (FL) school. After Voltich’s suspension from teaching, a large number of “alt-right” women supported her. The new law lets these people have guns in schools.

With every age demographic opposed to arming teachers, peaking at 70 percent opposition among those ages 16-17, the greatest opponents are insurance companies. After a mass shooter massacred children and educators at Sandy Hook (CT), Kansas gave schools the right to concealed-carry, and EMC Insurance Companies, providing coverage to 85 percent of the state’s schools, said they wouldn’t insure schools that permitted employees to carry concealed handguns “to protect the financial security of the company.” Indiana workers’ comp insurers refused to cover school personnel who carried guns on campus. When Oregon considered a similar “guns in schools” initiative, insurance companies promised to surcharge districts for every civilian employee with a firearm in school. The question in Florida is whether they considered this issue when they passed its law arming teachers.

Basically, the new Florida law does what Republicans decry about schools—throw money at them without fixing the problem which is the problem of guns in schools. John Woodrow Cox showed the problem of accessibility to high-powered guns and large capacity magazines in his article about Jesse Osborne, a 14-year-old who killed a six-year old and injured another student and teacher after he had killed his father in their home. Osborne’s hope was to kill as many as 150 people, but he complained that he could get only a .40 caliber pistol. It jammed 12 seconds after he pulled the trigger. Osborne really wanted his father’s the Ruger Mini-14, a semiautomatic rifle like the gun that killed so many people in Parkland. Without that weapon, a firefighter was able to stop him. In court Oborne smiled while prosecutors described his crime. The Florida law won’t teach anyone how to pick out the Jesses from the millions of angry boys and men who love to shoot and succeed in getting guns.

Before the Florida Senate passed the final bill, it banned AR-15s for 15 minutes in an unrecorded voice vote. GOP leadership returned them to their normal state of Florida the “Gunshine State,” and overturned that vote by 21-17. Pro-AR-15 arguments were that AR-15s would protect people from the Nazi Holocaust and that “thoughts and prayers” were more useful than gun bans because people could use explosives to kill people. The Senate kept the AR-15s and then had a moment of silence for the 17 dead people before leaving the chamber.

The Alabama state Senate carried the religious notion event further: it’s “gun-safety” bill authorizes the placement of the Ten Commandments on public property to stop school mass shootings.

Since the Parkland massacre, the media largely ignored an armed school attack in Pennsylvania that left 22 wounded people. The 16-year-old sophomore had no guns—just two large knives. With an AR-15, he could have killed more than the 22 people he wounded. In the two Canadian mass shootings in 2016, a crossbow attack killed three, and a shotgun attacked killed four in two different locations. Yet in another U.S. mass shooting, this one in a Yountville (CA) veterans home, a veteran murdered three women before killing himself. In the first 67 days of 2018, 41 shootings of at least four people have killed at least 72 people. Seven of those shootings were in Florida.

For a month, the GOP Congress dithered about gun safety laws as young people continued to pressure them. Today, the House passed $50 million in unfunded grants for safety protocols and training in schools, ironically called Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act. The theory is to provide “tools and training to recognize warning signs to prevent violence.” The House has no plans for any other legislation unless the Senate sends them bills.

To look as if he were concerned about gun violence in schools, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issued his proposal for gun safety, largely similar to the Florida law and House bill although it added some requirements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in her disastrous 60 Minutes interview that she will be leading DDT’s “blue ribbon” commission on school safety. In addition to training teachers with guns, DDT wants to recruit military veterans and retired law enforcement trained with guns to become teachers, perhaps paying them the bonuses that he offered teachers with guns. Basically, watch people to see if they’re a problem (like white supremacists with guns?) and hire gun experts as teachers while studying programs. What’s missing is even his weak promise of increasing the age limit of purchasing high-powered semi-automatic weapons to 21. DDT is now repeating “The NRA happens to be very good people.”

DDT follows the person he talked with last, and in the case of his “school safety” ideas, he talked with NRA representatives last. “A gun-free zone to a killer or somebody who wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for the ice cream,” DDT said after he met with NRA leaders. The United States has some of those “ice cream” gun-free zones:

  • The White House
  • The Republican National Convention
  •  Mar-a-Lago
  • The U.S. Capitol Building
  • Republican Town Halls
  • NRA Conventions

No one gets shot in these places. In fact, when 80,000 people leave their homes for the annual NRA convention, gun-related injuries drop in the U.S. by 20 percent, according to a new study. In the states hosting the NRA convention, the drop in 37 percent is much more dramatic. Lead author of the study, Harvard Medical School professor Anupam Jena, said the reason is “a brief period of abstinence in gun use” when gun owners are away and their gun ranges or hunting grounds are closed. An Emory University epidemiologist suggested year-long NRA conventions to improve gun safety in the United States. (FYI, Dallas is holding the gun-free NRA convention on May 4-6.)

The most efficient way to pass real gun safety laws, not the laws that have commissions and extra money for training, is to use Black Panthers to patrol schools. It worked 50 years ago when they legally carried their guns onto the floor of the California state legislature. They were disarmed, and state legislators outlawed the public carrying of loaded firearms. Within a year, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the first federal gun-control law in 30 years, followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968 that amended and enlarged the first law.

September 12, 2015

Too Many Charter Schools for Profit Only

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In his push toward replacing all public schools with privately-managed, public-funded charter schools, Jeb Bush has become the sugar daddy of big business that makes big money off depriving young people of an education. The GOP presidential candidate opened the first charter school in the state when he was governor and increased it 56 percent annually during his first administration. By the time that he left office in 2007, the number had grown from 30 to 300 and since doubled to over 600. There would be more, but poor planning and management has caused the closure of another 308 schools so far this year. His first school closed in 2008.

Jeb Bush got the charter school ball rolling by maintaining that they would save students from failed public schools. By 2009, he sang another song—that charter schools are “a great opportunity… a half billion dollar opportunity.” Investors immediately showed interest in the lucrative possibilities. Bush has kept lobbying for these schools: almost all the classrooms with happy children in his campaign videos “are at schools operated by Academica, [Florida’s] largest for-profit charter school management company,” according to BuzzFeed reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy.

Academica has almost 100 schools in Florida and over $150 million in annual revenue along with being the subject of “an ongoing federal probe into its real estate dealings,” as reported by the Miami Herald in 2014. Charter schools must be overseen by a non-profit board of directors, but corporations make their money from everything else—payroll operations, food services contracting, textbook sales—as well as hiring personnel and controlling curriculum.

Another way that companies like Academica make profits is state grants, loans, and tax credits for building the school before charging the school district massive rents and leases to use the buildings. Charter Schools USA charged one school $2 million rent, 23 percent of its budget. Charter companies also get the profits if they sell the buildings to another entity. Within the last two years, only charter schools received capital outlay for new construction, and charter school companies are now going after local property taxes.

Although Florida districts traditionally decide when and where a new school is needed, charter schools can open up at the company’s volition without permission from a school district. Laurie Rich Levinson, a school board representative, said, “We must approve them even when we don’t know where exactly they’ll be located,” she says. Charter schools are also not subject to traffic restrictions, building codes, and other regulations mandated for other businesses and institutions.

Companies closing charter schools also punish communities through charges. When local officials in Florida tried to get $400,000 back from two closed schools, the companies had either moved the funds or had them frozen by liens. The Sun Sentinel reported, “County schools may have to repay $1.8 million owed by two closed charter schools.” The schools didn’t keep accurate counts of enrolled students; therefore money already collected will be withheld from future payments to the district.

Florida is not alone in its problems with charter schools. Claims that charter schools provide superior education have been debunked in other states. A report on Pennsylvania’s charters a year ago indicated that only one in six of these schools is “high-performing” and none of the online ones is “high-performing.” Charter schools weed out students based on characteristics such as those with special needs and low test scores. In many cases, English learners and children in poverty need not apply. The result is higher segregation in schools.

In many charter schools, cost-cutting curriculum limits students to little more than reading and mathematics test preparation, inexperienced teachers with high turnover, and products that line the pockets of board members. At the same time, the schools are used as cash cows.

Publicly-funded charter schools act like private entities, denying such basic information as salaries. In 2012, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature tried to introduce a bill that exempted all charters from the state’s sunshine laws. Companies have argued in California courts that they are private entities and cannot be treated as public institutions.

The drain on real public schools is tremendous. For example, charter tuition payments cost Pittsburgh $53 million in just one year. In order to make more money for their companies, charter corporations are working to close traditional public schools. Pennsylvania forced districts to approve new charters while slashing the budget and closing more schools.

Big donors for John Kasich during his 2014 run for Ohio governor were charter school operators and companies. He vowed to clean up charter schools after cutting money from public schools and to show how well the charters were doing with a public site to compare their performance with public schools. The upgrading of charter facilities and increase in their budgets cost Ohioans well over one billion dollars so far this year while public schools lost one-half billion dollars. Last month, David Hansen, state director of school choice, resigned after he admitted charter schools looked much better because he omitted poor grades for online and dropout-recovery schools. Kasich probably won’t be talking much about charter schools on the campaign trail.

One state has declared that giving public school funds to charter schools is unconstitutional. Washington state Supreme Court spent almost a year of deliberation before he overturned a narrowly-passed ballot measure in 2012 allowing publicly-funded, privately-operated schools. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards. Therefore, “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” she wrote. A coalition filing the suit asked for this ruling because these schools are “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.” The nine schools planning to open this fall will not close but instead plan to rely on private funding.

In 1992, democratic socialist Sweden began distributing vouchers to parents to send their children to any school, private or public. Companies were permitted to operate for-profit schools, and private equity firms ran hundreds of schools. The result:

  • Test scores fell consistently starting in 1995.
  • Social stratification and ethnic and immigrant segregation increased.
  • Better teachers went to schools with students of higher socio-economic status.
  • One of the biggest private education firms declared bankruptcy in 2013. About 1,000 people lost their jobs, and the company’s unpaid debt is about $150 million.
  • A convicted pedophile legally set up several schools.
  • The system found no impact on medium or long-term educational outcomes such as high school GPA, university attainment or years of schooling.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 2,486 U.S. charter schools closed between 2001 and 2013. [Check here for an interactive map of these closures.] Charter school students are two and a half times at risk of having their school closed, causing a disruption in their education and decreasing high school graduation rates by almost 10 percent.

Unknown millions of dollars of the $3.3 billion spent by the federal government went to schools that never opened to students. The Center for Popular Democracy documented more than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry in 15 states alone. Wisconsin was given $69.6 million between 2010 and 2015, but one-fifth of the charters opened in the first two years of grants have closed. Indiana was given $31.3 million because the schools are exempt from democratic oversight by elected school boards.

Failed charter schools may cost about $1.4 billion in 2015. This waste hasn’t stopped the Department of Education. Secretary Arne Duncan asked for a 48-percent expansion of the program and refuses to release any information about grants or their applicants.

Fraud, lack of transparency, lower achievement—these are a few of the problems in many states that allow these schools to be controlled by profiteers. People in every state should look into laws for charter schools to make sure that they don’t have the same problem.

August 8, 2015

Conservatives Define U.S. Morality, Work to Increase Abortions

Planned Parenthood stayed a punching bag for GOP presidential candidates during last Thursday’s debate, and  financially well-off conservatives continue to propagate the myth that the organization is “selling” fetal tissue. Anti-choice was so rampant during the debate that Scott Walker refused to say that he would save a woman’s life at the expense of a fetus, and Marco Rubio was forced into claiming that he would oppose abortions for victims of rape and incest. Politicians, however, may have misjudged what they consider the extent of revulsion of the group providing health care for millions of poorer people in the United States.

A majority of people has favorable opinions about Planned Parenthood—even after the release of the highly doctored videos—and a plurality of respondents opposes banning Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds. Three quarters of people in the U.S. believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape. One in five people in the United States have gone to a Planned Parenthood clinic for health services, 29 percent of the women and ten percent of the men. Even worse for the Republicans, a 60 percent to 25 percent margin of women have positive responses about Planned Parenthood, and women are the voters that the GOP has progressively lost. Planned Parenthood is more popular than the NRA, which is calling most of the shots in the country in gun issues.

Thursday’s debate lost women’s approval not only by its bashing of Planned Parenthood but also from its refusal to decry Donald Trump’s sexist remarks. Not one candidate refuted his demeaning statements about women’s bodies until today, when they deemed it safe to criticize him. Even Carly Fiorina refused to denounce Trump’s comments and only said, “It’s not helpful to call people names…. Some Republicans do that. Some Democrats do that.”

Moderator Megyn Kelly called out Trump for his statements about women but said nothing to Walker after he waffled on her question, “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?” And nobody asked the real question, “Did the candidates support a move to shut down the government over their party’s failed attempt to defund Planned Parenthood?” Fox couldn’t because an answer would show who was willing to hurt their party, something that moderator Bret Baier excoriated Trump for, after the candidate said he wouldn’t refuse to run as a third-party candidate.

Jeb Bush bragged that he defunded Planned Parenthood while he was Florida governor. In 2001, he cut over $300,000 from women’s health services, the annual amount that Planned Parenthood had received for over a decade. Here’s what happened by 2014:

  • Florida ties with Arkansas and Oklahoma for the worst state for a woman’s well-being.
  • The uninsured rate for women grew to 25 percent, second only to Texas.
  • About 20 percent of women in Florida are in fair, poor or ill health, ranking 13th in that category in all states and territories.
  • About 20 percent of women lack access to a personal doctor, physician, or general healthcare provider in Florida, three percentage points higher than the national average.
  • Florida ranks 46th in the number of women who have had a pap smear in the last 3 years.
  • Of Florida’s 67 counties, 23—over one-third—lack an OB-GYN.
  • Women must travel more than an hour just to see a doctor in most parts of Florida.

Every state in the U.S. could look like this if Jeb Bush—or other Planned Parenthood naysayers—became president. Bush said, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” When Fiorina questioned him about this statement, he said, “My record as governor of the state of Florida was we expanded women’s health spending through community-based care.” The above statistics show Bush’s “misrepresentations” and what happened when he moved the money to “community-based care.”

Despite the current braggadocio, defunding Planned Parenthood could face serious legal challenges. Medicaid law allows beneficiaries the right to pick their own health care providers as long as these providers accept Medicaid. Arizona, Indiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee have been blocked in their efforts to cut off Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. Susan Fogel, director of reproductive health for the National Health Law Program, said that stripping the organization’s Medicaid funding likely would be ruled discriminatory.

The failed Senate bill to defund Planned Parenthood would also not cover the gap in women’s health services if Planned Parenthood were defunded. The organization provides preventive health services—cancer screenings, family planning, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, well-woman exams, etc.—for about 2.7 million people annually. Planned Parenthood clinics account for 10 percent of all U.S. federally funded health centers and serve 36 percent of total clients who seek care at facilities that receive public funding. More than half these centers are in rural or medically underserved places.

Community health centers may not be able to provide this full range of sexual and reproductive services. Only 29 percent of these centers report that their largest clinics prescribe and dispense all types of contraceptive methods on-site but instead give referrals for some contraceptive methods. Defunding Planned Parenthood means less dissemination of contraception; less contraception means a higher rate of unwanted pregnancy, especially in teenagers; more unwanted pregnancies means a higher rate of abortion whether safely legal or dangerously illegal. Conservatives’ desire to defund Planned Parenthood results is the opposite of what they claim they want—fewer abortions.

Pleased with the bad press for Planned Parenthood, over a dozen states have each announced investigations into Planned Parenthood. Thus far, not one of them has discovered any wrong-doing on the part of the affiliates in their state.

An editorial in the conservative Washington Post has called for a stop on “the vendetta against Planned Parenthood.” It explains how the videos showcase “distorted” information “to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women—as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances—[which] doesn’t matter to antiabortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them.” The Post continues:

“None of the videos released shows anything illegal and, in fact, the full footage of Planned Parenthood executives meeting with people presumed to be buyers for a human biologics company include repeated assertions that clinics are not selling tissue but only seeking permitted reimbursement costs for expenses….”

Meanwhile male lawmakers are preening themselves on the important part that they play in giving birth. For example, this from Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) who calls abortion a “men’s issue”:

“I’m a dad of two daughters. I had something to do with the birth as well, and was also there. I was there during the sonograms. My wife and I are extremely close. And to be a dad of two daughters, I’m very passionate, not only about my own wife, but about my mom, who’s a cancer survivor—multiple-time cancer survivor—I’m passionate about my daughters having every single opportunity.”

He also thinks that he should make decisions for every other woman in the United States.

Other conservatives are even crazier in discussing the issue. Fox’s Eric Bolling said that the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood are “far worse” than “the beheading videos of ISIS.” He concluded, “They literally made me nauseous, don’t watch them.” (These are videos that Fox frequently plays.)

Mike Huckabee would stop abortions with “the FBI or federal forces,” if he is to be believed.

The vast majority of people shocked by the Planned Parenthood videos mostly likely have not seen them; they just listen to how conservatives try to build horror in their aim to get money and votes. In fact, the videos discuss a processing fee—no profit—for fetal tissue donated by women who terminated their pregnancies. The National Institutes of Health funds medical research from the donations that makes lives better for people around the world. This research includes treatment for cytomegalovirus causing enlarged spleens and seizures in newborns, neuro-developmental disorders, polio (fetal kidney cells created the first vaccine), chicken pox, rubella, and shingles. The tissue for the last three disorders came from two elective abortions performed in the 1960s.

For almost a century, fetal tissue research has been vital to vaccine development. In the past twenty years, fetal tissue research has been extensively used to develop treatments for disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Conservatives don’t object to the research; they’re trying to stop safe, legal abortions.

At the same time that they express disgust at talking about fetal tissue over lunch, conservatives talk over lunch about how to destroy people’s lives, take money from the poor who are already homeless and hungry, eliminate education and jobs, permit the wealthy to hide more of their money from taxes, and kill people in a large number of countries. To them, this behavior is moral whereas women’s control of their own bodies is immoral. The defensive attitude by more progressive politicians permits conservatives to frame morality for the United States, and everyone except the wealthy is losing the battle.

July 1, 2014

U.S. – Culture of Gun Violence:

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Dead two-year-old toddler: it’s God’s will. That’s her grandmother’s opinion after the girl’s five-year-old brother shot her in the face with his birthday present, a .22 caliber “My First Rifle” Crickett, designed and marketed as a toy for small children. The uncle said, “It’s something that you can’t prepare for.” Yes, you can! You can’t fix people’s stupidity, but you can make laws to keep them from letting their children kill each other.

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” That’s the motto of many people in the United States who fight any kind of gun sense. An example from Ohio: teenagers stride through a suburban neighborhood with AR-15’s, yelling racial slurs. “Open carry in the state of Ohio, the cops can’t do nothing,” one teen said on camera. And he’s right. [Check on arrests]

In May, an armed man showed up in a park where children were playing Little League. He waved his gun around, yelling “Look at my gun!” and “There’s nothing you can do about it.” Alarmed parents called the police. The man was right. There was nothing that the police could do about the man. Gunners say that children should be taught about responsible gun use, but this is an example of what they see.

Other acts of gun insanity occurred frequently in Texas during the same week including armed men protesting outside a Jack in the Box. Frightened employees locked themselves in a freezer and called the policy to alert them to a robbery. All very legal, but the taxpayers had to pony up for the costs of sending over a dozen officers for the gunners’ expression. Again people lost their freedom to safety. Demonstrators were upset that the police were called and said, “We’re not trying to alarm anybody. We’re doing this because it’s our constitutional right.”

Today celebrates the first day of Georgia’s “guns everywhere” law, the so-called “Safe Carry Protection Act” that permits Georgians and residents of 28 other states to carry weapons into “unsecured government buildings,” consenting bars and churches, and schools which allow them.  The term “unsecured” means, however, that legislators don’t have to worry about guns around them; weapons are prevented in the state Capitol.

No one, not even the police, can ask people with guns if they have permits. Supporters of the new law compare gun ownership to driving cars. If that were true, guns wouldn’t be allowed in any of these places because people can’t drive cars into them. No one leaves a car lying around in the children’s section of a library the way that gun owners can.

Jerry Henry, director of georgiacarry.org, thinks “church carry” is vital, and the Georgia Baptist Church supports it to protect people from the “criminal element.”

Convicted felons cannot own guns, but under the new law they can use a Stand Your Ground defense, keeping them out of prison after killing someone.

In a satire on the new Georgia law, Stephen Colbert pointed out that people can carry guns in airports. Intended as humor, this photo can also be reality.

ColbertNRA-airport

Not satisfied with the number of Floridians who can kill people with impunity, the state has expanded its Stand Your Ground law. As of last week, people who fire or point a gun in “self-defense” or as a “warning” are immune from criminal penalty. The emotional appeal behind the extension of rights to kill was the 20-year sentence for a woman who fired a “warning shot” as her abusive husband came toward her. Her injustice more likely came from her color and gender than her attempt to protect herself; the new law won’t solve that problem.

Florida is so upset about the publicity it has received that the law also seals records in Stand Your Ground when charges are dropped and expunges records when defendants are granted immunity. No longer can the impact of the law be documented, as the Tampa Bay Times’ survey did for the earlier Stand Your Ground law in 2012. Florida doesn’t want people to know that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in homicides, have a disproportionate impact on African Americans, and fail to deter crime.

This is an example of how bad the gun culture has gotten:

Child’s email: “Whenever my parents fight, my dad threatens my mom with his gun. Fortunately, this now means nothing to my mom, and she never goes nuts about it; she is very calm. But as a child, I get nervous and worried when this happens. Even my younger brother saw this incident. What should we do about it and him?”

Response: “Well, again, you don’t want to get your father busted, but you could. You ought to go to your mother and say, ‘Mom, this thing is scaring me, and I ask you please to get my father to have some help.’ This kind of rage — I mean, one day he’s going to pull the trigger. It doesn’t take too much if you’ve got a loaded weapon and you’re brandishing it around, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ And the next thing you know, the thing goes off. It may be accidentally, but the mother will end up dead. But you’re a kid, what do you do? You know? Your mother ought to take care of that.”

The man giving the advice of not getting the father “busted” is televangelist Pat Robertson on CBN’s June 11, 2014 The 700 Club.

The new term for gun “enthusiasts” is ammosexuals. As Bill Maher said, “Guns aren’t just a tool of last resort.  They’re awesome.  That’s why people stroke them.  And name them, and take pictures with them.” Maher recommends that ammosexuals try going out without their guns to recover from their separation anxiety. “Just think how exciting it will be when you get home and there she is,” he said. “Oiled up and just wearing a holster.”

One of these ammosexuals, 37-year-old Greg Philip Winnick, fell asleep cradling his Rebel Arms AR-15. An accidental discharge went through the ceiling next to the mattress where a couple was sleeping.  As Maher concluded, the problem with guns isn’t necessarily that they’re legal. It’s the love affair between ammosexuals and their guns. The United States doesn’t have a monopoly on irresponsible and angry people, but we do have a monopoly on gun deaths.

GunViolence-620x445 world Facts that the NRA and gun industry don’t want to hear:

  • The United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world.
  • Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.
  • Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization.
  • Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members.
  • Family violence is much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger.
  • Murder-suicides, a major risk to children, are most likely to be committed with a gun.
  • Gun deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. For every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.”
  • The U.S. firearm-related suicide rate is 10 times the average of other industrialized nations.
  • Adolescents living in states with higher gun prevalence suffer from higher rates of suicide and are significantly more likely to live with guns in their homes.
  • Firearms that are stored loaded have the highest risk, while safely stored guns (locked and unloaded) are much safer.
  • Children younger than 15 are nine times more likely to die by a gun accident in the U.S. than in the rest of the developed world.
  • Parents’ ownership of weapons is a significant risk not only to their own children but also to their children’s friends.
  • In the developed world, 87 percent of children younger than 14 killed by firearms live in the United States.

The NRA and extreme gun advocates perpetuate a culture of fear and violence, teaching children that guns are a solution. Bullied students are bringing thousands of guns to schools. Exposure to firearm violence doubles the risk that an adolescent will then in turn commit violent acts over the next two years. The death toll continues to mount. And people blame God.

Next Page »

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily 60 Second News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

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

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

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

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

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

The WordPress.com Blog

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

%d bloggers like this: