Nel's New Day

January 23, 2018

How DDT Claims to Make U.S. Safe

More news from the last week of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) of his first year:

DDT’s request for more foreign workers at his winery could benefit from Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) proposed bill deporting all immigrant workers and replacing them with migrant workers who can be exploited by removing benefits such as housing and transportation, gutting protections and drastically lowering wages. Employers could withhold ten percent of wages to deposit them into a U.S. embassy or consulate in the workers’ home countries.

DDT has stopped a program to help health workers and families identify effective substance abuse and behavioral health programs.

Republicans reauthorized the warrantless surveillance act of Section 702 and added warrantless searches of millions of Americans’ online and phone communications. The bill almost failed when DDT heard Andrew Napolitano tell Fox & Friends that Section 702 was responsible for accusing DDT of Russian collusion, and DDT tweeted against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent 30 minutes on the phone explaining the bill to DDT.

Immigrant-hater Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), favored by DDT, is threatening dissenting constituents with police action even for written communication.

The Pentagon took climate change from its National Defense Strategy, added in George W. Bush’s 2008 report. The term also disappeared from the list of threats in the National Security Strategy. A 1990 U.S. Naval War College report found that its operations could be greatly affected by global climate change. The world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, has routine flooding, even on sunny days, with no plans to fix the problem.

With his new sycophant Mike Mulvaney in charge of the consumer bureau, DDT plans to let the $40 billion payday lending industry prey on the poor after the industry paid $8 million to GOP legislators and part and $1,275,000 to DDT’s inauguration. Mulvaney’s piece to drop payday lending rules got him $55,000 in campaign donations. The Community Financial Services Association of America’s annual conference is scheduled at the Trump National Doral resort in Miami.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) did even better from the new tax bill; he got $1 million–$500,000 from the Koch brothers for saving them 40 percent of their tax bill a special deduction for oil and gas investors and another $500,000 from five other businessmen.

The Supreme Court declared that the redrawing of North Carolina’s GOP-oriented gerrymandered districts on hold during an appeal. In a state with a bare majority for Republicans, they took ten of thirteen House positions in the last election.

A month ago, DDT congratulated the LGBTQ  Log Cabin Republicans on their 40th anniversary and declared them “equal” under the law and the constitution. This week, he continued his persecution of LGBTQ people by promoting the discriminatory practice of healthcare workers denying treatment of LGBTQ patients for moral or religious reasons through a new division of the civil right office. Before President Obama, an ambulance driver’s refusal to take a transgender woman to a hospital led to her death, lesbian couples were denied fertility treatment, and children of same-gender couples were denied health care. The Department of Education is already refusing to hear civil rights complaints from transgender students.

The new guidelines can discriminate against other people, including denying access to abortions, “assisted suicide,” sterilization, in vitro fertilization, contraception, and other “certain health-care services.” Some people have access only to Catholic-based healthcare, which controls over 14 percent of the hospitals in the United States and 40 percent of the hospitals in five states.

The investigation into Russian involvement with DDT still moves forward.

The National Rifle Association is now involved in the Russian connection after the discovery that Russia gave them money in their work to elect DDT. Other suspicious activities are connected to financial activity with Russia during crisis times for that country in Ukraine.

Steve Bannon so infuriated the House Intelligence Committee by saying that the White House wouldn’t let him answer questions that they slapped him with a subpoena on the spot. Only a president can use executive privilege to not answer questions; anyone else must use their 5th Amendment rights. Bannon did slip up and admitted that he talked to Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and Mark Corallo about Donald Trump, Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russians in the Trump Tower. Bannon’s lawyer was on the phone with a White House official during the testimony, possibly an obstruction of justice. Special investigator Robert Mueller also subpoenaed Bannon to testify before a grand jury. Bannon dressed up for his House appearance.

The week’s maybe most bizarre story fits into a thriller novel. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, was warned a year ago about his friendship with Wendi Deng Murdoch because she might be using him to promote China’s business interests. Wendi Deng is the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, divorced after a purported affair with UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair, and a close friend of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump. Wendy Deng lobbied for a $100 million Chinese garden fewer than five miles from the Capitol and the White House that included a tower tall enough to be used for surveillance. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, broke the story.

Appointments:

The good news! Because of his vicious racist, sexist, and homophobic statements, Carl Higbie has resigned as nominee for chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that manages programs such as AmeriCorps and other volunteer services.

Kenneth Marcus’ nomination to head up the Office for Civil Rights will have a full vote after the party-line vote of the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. Over 200 civil rights organizations opposed his confirmation after his statement that he could not think of any situation in which he would disagree with DDT’s positions on women’s rights or civil rights. Marcus opposes affirmative action and equal opportunity, stating that evidence of racial disparities in student discipline, i.e., black students suffering harsh discipline at much higher rates than white students, comes from paperwork errors. He also supports the reversal of guidance on campus sexual assault and opposes the Commission on Civil Rights’ investigation of human rights violations against the LGBTQ community. The Office for Civil Rights is responsible for protecting students from discrimination.

Ten of 12 members of the National Park Service Advisory Board quit after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to meet with the committee. Created in 1935, the board helps preserve American heritage by designating historic or natural landmarks. Zinke previously disbanded the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science.

Sexual Misconduct:

Another woman, Alana Evans, has claimed that DDT offered her money to “party.” Recent revelations of cover ups show that DDT is willing to lie about his sexual affairs (a given), making him vulnerable to blackmail and extortion. DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid porn queen Stormy Daniels through a shell company that he created in Delaware.

The Missouri GOP governor in trouble for blackmailing a woman after having an affair with her and then taking nude photographs of her under duress is in more trouble. Eric Greitens refused to resign, despite bipartisan pressure, and used a state-paid lawyer to try to make the problem go away. A GOP state senator tweeted, “Stick a fork in him.”

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) has been removed from the Ethics Committee after it was reported he used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle a misconduct complaint by a decades-younger former staffer. The Ethics Committee will investigate Meehan.

Tennessee megachurch pastor Andy Savage chuckled through his description of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old congregant and called it consensual and “flirtatious.” His congregation had previously applauded his “confession,” but his publisher pulled his book and he’s on a leave of absence from his pastor position.

Almost 140 girls and women have given testimony against Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics medical coordinator, in a sentence hearing about his sexual assaults conviction. Nassar, 54, already has a 60-year federal sentence for a child pornography conviction and pled guilty to several state sexual assault charges. An NCAA investigation is exploring why Michigan State refused to address repeated reports of sexual abuse by their former university faculty member and practicing physician at the school’s sports medicine clinic from 1997 until he was fired in 2016. A cross country runner was told that he “knew what he was doing” when he penetrated her vagina for a hamstring “treatment.” All other complaints were dismissed.

The GOP supporting “family values” has gotten rid of one “bad hombre”: Jorge Garcia, brought to the U.S. involuntarily 29 years ago, is married to a U.S. citizen, has two U.S. citizen kids, and has no criminal record. He regularly reported to his ICE check-in and spent $125,000 trying to legally stay in the country. This week ICE deported him on Martin Luther King Jr Day. And he’s not the first in that situation to be separated from his family.

Another loss is Lukasz Niec, 5 years old when his parents brought him and his sister legally to the United States from Poland in 1979, two years before the country’s authoritarian communist government declared martial law. He is married to a U.S. citizen and has visited Poland only once when he was a teenager. With a green card, Niec became a legal permanent resident and a doctor, like both his parents. ICE arrested the 43-year-old man at his home and detained him in a county jail. As a teenager, he had two misdemeanor convictions of malicious destruction of property under $100 and receiving and concealing stolen property over $100. The second offense had been expunged from his criminal record.

DDT: Make our country safe.

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June 27, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Two – Russia, Other Bizarre Happenings

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) seemed tamer earlier last week, but he always winds up before his weekend vacations when he can ditch his keepers. Maybe his daily 6:30 am calls to his legal time have given him food for thought. He has far too many lawyers for a man who has nothing to hide. Some of his own lawyers are even hiring their own lawyers.

DDT’s biggest loss to Russia could be the Senate vote of 98-2 that limits DDT’s power to remove sanctions from Russia. The U.S. shooting down a Syrian Air Force fighter didn’t make this nation popular with Russia, a Syrian supporter. In retaliation, Russia declared any U.S.-led coalition craft west of the Euphrates river as a possible target and ended the Syrian air safety agreement with the U.S. to avoid aircraft collisions. DDT had already turned all military decisions to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, thereby losing all control and possibly forecasting war. The result was 4,000 more troops sent to Afghanistan and a massive increase in U.S.-caused civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq, more than 35 percent more in five months since DDT’s inauguration than in all of 2016. May saw a record number of women and children killed. It was only two months ago that DDT said that “we’re not going into Syria.”

Each week gives greater information about Russian hacking into the U.S. election, including attempts to delete or change voter data. A DHS official testified that 21 states were target although a total of 39 states is possible.

Russian revelations keep surfacing. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn missed reporting a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia lobbying a U.S./Russia business plan to build nuclear reactors. The legality of foreign payments to Michael Flynn’s business partner Bijan Kianthe is also being investigated.  Another casualty could be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who kept briefing Flynn on highly classified secrets after he knew Flynn was subject to Russian blackmail. The Justice Department has one month to make public part of AG Jeff Sessions’ clearance form that was supposed to disclose Russian official contact, according to a U.S. District Court judge. Sessions has hired his own lawyer. The judge gave the same time limit to search Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ communication with the FBI to repudiate links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Much of the media was taken up last week with the announcement of the senate health care bill, prepared in secret by GOP leader’s staffers, according to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). The sole purpose of the bill is tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, indicating that the name might be better Trumpcut than Trumpcare.

In his continuation of hosting foreign leaders—perhaps hoping that they will want his golf courses and resorts—DDT praised the U.S. for doing “a good job building [the Panama Canal].” Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela responded, “Yeah, about 100 years ago.”

The Supreme Court decided to hear a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin that could—or might not—reduce voter suppression throughout the United States. The fourth solid red district stayed red after reelections for DDT’s nominations. All of them, however, are turning purple as the most recent one in Georgia where Dem Jon Osoff lost by under two points after GOP Tom Price won it by 23 percent just six months ago. Democrats overperformed in the other elections too, despite the Republians’ lies.

The circus of White House press conferences continued with refusals to even tape the event before Spicer backed down. Despite rumors of Sean Spicer’s departure—and his requirement to interview for his replacement—the press secretary is still there and repeating his line about not speaking to DDT about the subject of the question, any question.

After weeks of teasing his audience about possible tapes of himself and former FBI director James Comey, DDT has announced that he lied, that there are no tapes. His claim about taping could be defined as an attempt to intimidate a witness. DDT could still be lying about the existence of tapes if he thinks that they don’t support his version of conversations with Comey. According to former employees, DDT taped conversations at Trump Tower in New York City and recorded his guests’ telephone calls at Mar-a-Lago. To cover himself, DDT said that he didn’t rule out the possibility that “electronic surveillance” had picked up their talks.

DDT sent a statement with “warm greetings” to Muslims celebrating Ramadan but eliminated the two-decade tradition of an Iftar dinner representing the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Two organizations are suing DDT for illegally destroying communications that federal law demands be preserved. Messages sent from the White House supposedly use an “auto-delete” app to erase messages after they are read. Jordan Libowitz, CREW spokesman, said that the purpose is to “keep them secret from the American people,” as part of a “larger, troubling pattern” of information suppression in the Trump administration, which also includes deletion of the president’s tweets.” DDT continually slammed Hillary Clinton for not saving her emails, asking Russia to find them.

Ivanka Trump is also involved in a lawsuit. She has been ordered to testify in a lawsuit from an Italian shoemaker who is accusing her of copying one of his designs.

DDT has gone back to finding ambassadors. He picked two owners of sports franchises, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to go to the UK and former LA Dodgers baseball team owner Jamie McCourt for Belgium. Top donor and fundraiser Kelly Knight Craft may be headed to Canada. She and her husband Joe Craft, president of a coal company Alliance Resource Partners, gave $1.3 million to GOP candidates and SuperPACs last year. Fourteen of his 19 ambassador picks are campaign donors.

In another choice, DDT nominated Christopher Wray to replace James Comey as head of the FBI. In early January 2017, Wray deleted a line from his law firm bio referencing a 2006 case in which he represented a U.S. energy executive being investigated by the Russian government. As Chris Christie’s personal lawyer, Wray got the New Jersey governor off from a charge of the George Washington Bridge closing. Wray had a phone with text messages and a former staffer during legislative testimony that Christie claimed he gave to the Department of Justice, but a judge refused to subpoena the phone in evidence against Christie. Wray’s firm also worked on DDT’s “blind trust.” Several candidates for the FBI position had already withdrawn from consideration.

A Washington Post analysis found that DDT’s Mar-a-Lago club is booking fewer charity banquets and events since his campaign than in the previous seven years. These banquets account for almost half the annual revenue. DDT’s  real estate business is also struggling with a decline in condo and land sales. Listing prices for several high-end NYC condos are being drastically cut while the city’s condo market is booming. DDT did manage to sell a penthouse to a Chinese American tied to high-ranking Chinese government officials and organizations linked to Chinese military intelligence groups. The large revenue on DDT’s financial disclosure forms show gross and not net revenue.

DDT tried to rally his troops in a speech in Iowa ten days ago. It was his first west of the Mississippi, and he told at least 18 lies according to fact checkers. One was his promise to pass “new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years.”  DDT’s mandate has been law for 20 years. He also bragged about bringing back coal jobs while delivering multiple lies about the Paris Agreement. Iowa not only has no coal jobs but also gets one-third of its electricity from wind. DDT ridiculed the state for its wind energy, indicating that people will have no electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and complaining about wind turbines “killing all the birds.” Cell phone towers killed 6.8 million birds a year, and glass buildings do away with one billion. Climate change can finish off the rest of them.

Last fall DDT proudly announced that he had saved jobs because Ford wouldn’t be expanding its production in Mexico. The corporation is centralizing its small-car production in China. Ford has said it will cut as many as 1,400 jobs in less than a year. General Motors has cut production at four U.S. assembly lines, costing 4,400 workers their jobs. Fiat Chrysler laid off another 1,300 workers at their assembly line in Detroit. The 600 Carrier jobs that DDT bragged about saving last year are going to Mexico, and Boeing is pink-slipping an unknown number of employees.

As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said,  American leadership was better under President Obama than under DDT.

[Note: My apologies for being late with the 22nd week. Look for the 23rd week in a few days. DDT keeps making news!]

May 26, 2017

DDT: Week Eighteen, More GOP Losses

Good news for investors, albeit temporary, is the announcement from U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta that President Obama’s order, the fiduciary rule, will go into effect on June 9 instead of another postponement from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Stock companies and brokers hate the rule that requires them to act in the best interest of their customers. Acosta’s decision caused several stocks to drop because of the industry’s disappointment in not being able to push more expensive products to benefit themselves.

Another failure for DDT: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate its nation-wide Muslim ban, ruling 10-3  that DDT’s executive order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” The Maryland court order blocking the ban remains in place.

The Supreme Court has determined that two North Carolina GOP lawmakers used racial demographics to design two congressional districts. Elena Kagan, author of the majority opinion, described District 12 (below) as “snakelike.” The vote of 5-3 was opposed by John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Alito.

AG Jeff Sessions also had to pull back on his official definition of “sanctuary cities” and acknowledged that the federal government has very limited ability to revoke funding. As a judge had earlier ruled, the law only requires governments to share information about immigrants’ citizenship or legal status—nothing else.

Another fight that DDT may lose is a request from the Office of Government Ethics to release all the waivers DDT has provided to former lobbyists hired in the White House or federal agencies so that they can work with former issues they had been involved with or clients. DDT’s executive order stated that he would follow President Obama’s practices to prohibit lobbyists from representing their former clients and issues without waivers, but he told Walter Shaub, the head of the Ethics section, that he won’t sent copies of the waivers. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has refused to provide the waivers.

Mulvaney also has a money problem because taxes are coming in “slower than expected,” meaning that the government could have fewer months before running out of cash. The current projection is October 2, even if some payments are suspended. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged a House committee to raise the debt limit before summer recess. The House Freedom Caucus opposed any increase in the debt limit without further cuts to the budget, meaning that Ryan may have to turn to Democrats.

DDT was elected partly because he promised jobs and used Carrier as one of his examples, saying it was a “100 percent chance” he would save the jobs that might move if he were elected. Carrier just announced that it was cutting 622 workers from its Indianapolis factory.

Loose lips sink ships—or in some cases, submarines. Pentagon officials are extremely upset because DDT told Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on April 29 that two nuclear submarines had been moved towards North Korea. Aircraft carriers don’t need to hide because the U.S. uses them as a show of force, but submarines are hidden as a means of strategic deterrence. According to the Philippine transcript of the call, DDT also told Duterte he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” and “keep up [the] good work; you are doing an amazing job.” Duterte has supported the extrajudicial killing of 9,000 people in less than a year, wants to “slaughter” millions of drug addicts just like Adolf Hitler “massacred” millions of Jewish people, and put his country under martial law. Today Duterte “joked” about his soldiers raping women.

Another leak keeping the U.S. out of the intelligence loop is the naming of Salman Abedi as the recent bomber in Manchester by “U.S. officials.” The UK press kept the name secret because the UK government and Greater Manchester police wanted to make their investigation more effective, but the U.S. ruined the investigators’ plans. Police briefly stopped sharing information about the investigation with anyone in the U.S. until Secretary of State Rex Tillerson apologized. UK Prime Minister announced that she will “make clear” that leaking of sensitive information must stop. That’s at least three big intelligence mistakes in less than a month.

Last week Turkish security guards attacked protesters standing across the street from the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. while President Recep Erdogan watched from his car. Local police reported that Turkish guards savagely attacked protesters with Erdogan guards shown on video kicking and choking protesters. Yet Turkey criticized “the inability of U.S. authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program” and demanded that the U.S. conduct a “full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation.” Turkey is also furious with the U.S. over DDT’s decision to arm Kurds to fight ISIS in Syria, maintaining that they are an affiliate of a terrorist organization.

Erdogan has indefinitely extended his dictated “state of emergency,” mandated after last year’s failed coup, until the country achieves “welfare and peace.” The decree permits him to make law without the Parliament of the courts.

DDT’s need to hire a private lawyer reflects the seriousness of the Russian investigation. His choice, New Yorker Marc Kasowitz, is known as a litigator and not a criminal defense lawyer with no background in constitutional cases. His experience with DDT is in civil cases, several of which he has lost—for example, DDT suing an author who claimed that DDT isn’t a billionaire, women accusing him of sexual misconduct, and students at Trump University. Kasowitz also represents Russia’s largest state-owned bank, OJSC Sberbank, which is currently in an open U.S. federal court case.

In other Russia news:

Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee that he believes Russia “brazenly” interfered in last year’s presidential election and that he knew of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. The interactions were enough for the FBI to investigate a possibility a collusion between the campaign and Moscow. Brennan informed eight senior congressional members last summer–long before the election–that Russia was working to elect DDT as present. He also briefed both President Obama and DDT in January that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered an “influence campaign” targeting the presidential election.

Another revelation is that DDT asked both the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia. Both refused DDT’s requests. In their failure to understand the independence of intelligence agencies, senior White House officials asked if they could ask Comey to stop his investigation of Michael Flynn, DDT’s former national security adviser.

After refusing to submit subpoenaed materials and pleading the Fifth Amendment, former national security adviser Michael Flynn was found to have lied in his interview for a 2016 security clearance renewal, according to a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Flynn told investigators that he was paid by “U.S. companies” when a Russian media propaganda arm, RT, paid him to travel to Russia. The Fifth Amendment, however, does not protect Flynn from incriminatory documents; he could be convicted of criminal charges for withholding any documents. Flynn had discussed a back channel of communication with Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in order to skip the U.S. national security bureaucracy—like DDT meeting Russian officials in the Oval Office with only Russian media present. During the presidential race, Russian officials bragged that they could use Flynn to influence DDT, causing intelligence officials to try to curb information given Flynn after DDT’s election.

AG Jeff Sessions also failed to disclose his meetings with the Russians when he applied for his security clearance. His excuse was that he was a senator at the time, but a legal expert differs with that opinion. During his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified that he “did not have communication” with the Russians during the campaign and asserted the same lie in an official questionnaire. Later Republicans let him cover himself by amending his testimony. Sessions canceled appearances before two congressional committees this week. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) is now spreading lies about the Sessions’ stories being wrong. In advising DDT to fire James Comey, Sessions also violated two oaths to recuse himself from issues dealing with Hillary Clinton’s emails and with the Russian investigation.

Also under investigation for deliberately manipulating the election through hacking or distributing hacked materials are Republican operative and DDT adviser Roger Stone.

DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest to be caught up in the FBI investigation about Russian collusion. He has been declared a “person of interest” in his relationship with Flynn and his contacts with the Russians. One of his past meetings, not reported on his security clearance forms, was with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian-owned development bank Vnesheconombank that is sanctioned by the United States for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. DDT put Kushner in charge of an extensive number of presidential duties including peace in the Middle East, the opioid solution, a $1 trillion infrastructure plans, recreation of government IT, and the reform of Veterans Affairs. Kushner left DDT’s world visit to return with his wife, Ivanka, to Washington yesterday when the news about his status broke.

 

Earlier, it was reported that Flynn discussed a back channel of communication with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The world now knows that in December Kushner may have been with Flynn in suggesting that DDT’s transition team and the Russian government use Russia’s diplomatic facilities in this secret communication. Kushner also had far more meetings with Russia officials than earlier reported. (The above graphic is a few weeks old; people may have been added since then.)

In another Kushner “oops,” Jared and his wife, Ivanka Trump, failed to disclose their multimillion-dollar art collection in public financial disclosures. By now, however, that seems like a minor problem for them.

If you question that DDT could be suffering from dementia, you need to read this article.

July 4, 2016

Voting Restrictions: Independence Day 2016

Filed under: Voting — trp2011 @ 3:11 PM
Tags: , , ,

It’s Independence Day, and gun owners will be proclaiming their freedom to own as many guns as they want with no restrictions because of the Constitution. Conservatives believe in an unfettered Second Amendment but refuse to accept the rights of people to vote. Although five amendments deal with voting, states can still limit voting rights, and five million people may not be able to cast their votes in the next presidential election because of these restrictions. The difference between freedom to vote in red and blue states has created a two-tiered system for the people of the United States.

In the past decade, more and more GOP-controlled states have passed restrictive laws to keep minorities, people in poverty, and women from casting their votes with the hopes that this will increase the number of Republican elected officials. With the 2010 election of Gov. Scott Walker and a GOP legislature, Wisconsin, a progressive leader in the nation during the 20th century, passed laws mandating voter IDs, cutting early voting from 30 days to twelve, eliminating night and weekend voting, banning straight-ticket voting, tightening residency requirements, and increasing difficulties in voter registration and absentee voting. The non-partisan agency to oversee state elections and educate the public about voter-ID laws is gone. Wisconsin is an example of how the abolishment of freedom to vote in the nation’s red states makes them redder.

In contrast, neighboring Minnesota, with highly similar geography, demographics, and cultural history, went in the opposite direction. Its residents elected Democrat Mark Dayton as governor in 2010 and a Democratic legislature two years later. The state raised taxes on the wealthy, invested in public education, expanded health care, and boosted unions as Wisconsin followed the opposite path toward Alabama and Mississippi status. Minnesota now has faster job growth, higher wages, lower unemployment—and the freedom to vote. Despite a beginning popularity for voter ID, the population defeated this ballot initiative in 2012 with 54 percent of the electorate and changed its caucus system to the more inclusive presidential primary.

The craziness with voter IDs was launched after the Supreme Court declared them constitutional in 2008. Liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, wrote the majority opinion but now calls it a “fairly unfortunately decision.” In a discussion with Justice Elena Kagan, he talked about whether judges should base their decisions on the information provided them or add research they conduct on their own. Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the 7th Circuit Court opinion based on the idea that voter IDs will not negatively impact minorities and poor people also now says that the decision was wrong and that the photo-ID requirement is “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

Over 80 percent of the 22 states passing new voting restrictions since 2010 are under GOP control while five Democratic states such as Oregon and California reformed its systems with automatic voter registration. Those who doubt that the GOP want to restrict voting rights in order to win more races should listen to the arguments of people who passed these laws. Wisconsin’s then-State Sen. Glenn Grothman said, “What I’m concerned about is winning. We better get this done while we have the opportunity.” A ruling should be announced in late July.

Now a U.S. representative, Grothman (R-WI) said that he thinks the voter ID law will help Donald Trump win Wisconsin this November. The county clerk of Waukesha County, a Milwaukee suburb that is 95 percent white and staunchly conservative, insisted that early voting gave “too much access” to Democratic voters in Milwaukee and Madison. In a search for voter fraud in Wisconsin, only three were found—two of them by Republicans and none that could have been stopped by voter IDs or curtailment of early voting.

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), now head of the conservative Heritage Foundation, explained that the GOP has fought to keep the restrictive laws “because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.

Technically, poll taxes, requiring voters to pay to vote, are illegal, but the presidential swing state of Ohio is considering privatizing part of elections by taxing polls left open because of Election Day emergencies such as a natural disaster. A bill approved in May would have forced people to put up a cash bond if they petitioned a court to extend voting hours for a few hours. Only the people who paid for the bond would be allowed to vote after hours. In the past, local Ohio courts have ruled that unforeseen emergencies, such as a software glitch that temporarily wiped out poll books and a huge car wreck that cut off a county’s main highway, called for keeping the polls open longer to keep waiting voters from being disenfranchised. Gov. John Kasich did veto the bill which followed a federal ruling that cuts to early voting hours are unconstitutional. Yet a judge just upheld Ohio’s purging almost two million voters from the rolls during the past five years.

Lawsuits across the country are fighting back against restrictive voter laws. A federal court is determining whether Wisconsin laws are constitutional where black voters are more than five times as likely to need free IDs and far more likely to be denied. Two women died during the over six-month wait after the application. The ID itself is technically free, but there are costs for transportation to the DMV office, time off from work to go through the process, or the documents necessary to qualify for an ID. A ruling should be announced in late July.

A lawsuit filed against Alabama used the example of a high schooler who can’t vote because she lacks a driver’s license. She can’t get a state-issued voter ID at the DMV because the nearest one is open only one day a month and there is no public transportation to one requiring a 40-mile roundtrip.

A lawyer supporting the Texas law said that geographical obstacles are the “reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.” Other lawsuits oppose voter ID laws in Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina. Texas voter ID stays in effect while the entire 5th Circuit Court rehears a case determined by a three-judge panel to be discriminatory but not intentionally.   Some states have lost lawsuits and declined to appeal, for example Pennsylvania in 2014.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who took the lead in disenfranchising voters, had a setback when U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirements likely violate a provision in the National Voter Registration Act that requires only “minimal information” to determine a voter’s eligibility. She ordered Kansas to register thousands of voters whose paperwork is on hold because they did not comply with the requirement. Another judge backed up this opinion, but Kobach, who is in charge of registering voters, is ignoring the court’s rulings.

Kobach is so dishonest that Kansas has different information in voter registration guides in English and Spanish. Spanish-speaking people were told that they had six days longer to register and vote than Kansas law. The Spanish version also fails to list passports as a document that can be used for first-time voter registrants.

Gerrymandering is another difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Republicans controlled Wisconsin’s redistricting process for the first time in 50 years after the 2010 census and manipulated boundaries to maintain GOP power for at least the next decade. In 2012, Obama won Wisconsin by seven points, but the GOP won over half of the state legislature. Only 10 percent of legislative seats are now considered competitive, leaving the GOP an airtight majority.

At this time, the 7th Circuit Court is hearing a case about redistricting in Wisconsin that was developed in secrecy behind a private law firm’s closed doors. No one except GOP legislators was permitted to see the plan until a few days before it was rushed through the legislature with only one hearing.

Expert Michael Li called the Wisconsin case “the most significant gerrymandering challenge in 30 years” and predicted that it will go to the Supreme Court. He added that Justice Anthony Kennedy has shown a strong interest in the case. In his closing statement May 27 to the judges in defending the GOP electoral map, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Brian Keenan insisted that this is what democracy looks like. “This is actually democracy,” Keenan stated. “The Republicans won the 2010 election. The Constitution gives them the right to [draw district lines].”

Republican-imposed plans in a number of other states—including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas—can be affected by Wisconsin’s redistricting ruling. The Supreme Court has now agreed to hear gerrymandering lawsuits from North Carolina and Virginia. State Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, told fellow legislators that one of the seven criteria for drawing new districts was “partisan advantage” that that it is not against the law. A federal three-judge panel upheld the districting, citing a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that politics used in redistricting is constitutional “so long as it does not go too far.” In the past, Kennedy has voted with the conservative majority, but without a replacement for Antonin Scalia, the decision could be a 4-4 split.

For the first time in 50 years, people do not have the protection of the Voter Right Act as they try to select a president. Studies show that stricter voter laws have depressed voter turnout, especially among minority groups. It also cuts back turnout among younger, newly registered, and black voters. The confusion of whether people have the correct ID also cuts back on the voting. A small number of voters can skew the results. In 2008, Barack Obama won North Carolina by 14,177 votes; in 2012, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 92,004 votes. Now the state has the most restrictive voting laws which reduced 2014 turnout by at least 30,000 voters. A federal judge has upheld North Carolina’s voting restrictions, but an appeal may overturn it.

This is what voting in the United States looks like on Independence Day 2016. Be grateful if you can vote. I’m extra grateful because I live in the first state in the nation with mandatory vote by mail, meaning no lines and a paper trail for all the votes. Washington and Colorado have now followed this practice. Oregon also started automatic voter registration followed by California, Connecticut, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Meanwhile the red states are spending millions of dollars defending their unconstitutional laws.

July 9, 2015

GOP Transgressions Outdo Those of Clinton; Media Ignores Them

When GOP presidential candidates talk, they are usually more concerned about smearing Hillary Clinton than explaining what they can do for the United States. The candidates have a lot of company in this area: the media follows suit in lambasting Clinton, calling what she’s done in the past or present as “scandalous.”

Clinton’s supposedly erased emails and her family foundation’s fundraising methods occupy reporters at infinitum while they ignore missing from Republicans. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s private emails have been erased, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed to never use email when the State Department asked her for hers. Yet reporters and conservatives have evidenced no interest in what Powell and Rice communicated about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Other GOP presidential candidates with records of private and deleted emails:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: He called Clinton’s use of the private email address an “outrage” while he was caught running a secret e-mail network for his inner circle of advisers when he was Milwaukee County executive.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: He deleted emails from his private account while in state government despite using his personal account to conduct business related to his official duties.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Lawyers hired to protect him in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal found that members of his staff communicated through private emails.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Although both GOP governors conducted official business from their private email accounts, they have not released the emails for public scrutiny.

Reporters also ignored the Bush/Cheney White House losing millions of important emails and Mitt Romney going to great lengths to hide his public emails from scrutiny in the last presidential campaign.

Other high officials have also used private email accounts:

While governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin kept a separate personal email account, separate from her official government account and regular personal account, to conduct official business. Eventually she was forced to release almost 25,000 emails for all these accounts.

While governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney and top aides used private email accounts for state business although his administration warned state agencies against private email accounts.

While top advisor to then President George W. Bush, Karl Rove made inappropriate use of RNC email resulting in the disappearance of four years of correspondence–22 million emails. As many as 22 other Bush aides did the same thing.

GOP-deleted emails were a part of the Florida’s Supreme Court ruling against the legislature’s design of congressional districts to defraud voters and win more seats. Five years ago, the state’s voters passed a constitutional amendment to make gerrymandering illegal. The GOP process to circumvent the amendment was to get rid of any evidence that they were manipulating the congressional districts. Because the GOP members of the state legislature knew that communication between Speaker Dean Cannon and political consultant Marc Reichelderfer was not privileged—and therefore available in litigation—they failed to keep these communications.  Redistricting maps were sent to Reichelderfer with a personal e-mail account and a since-deleted “Dropbox” account.

gerrymandering

Above is an example of one of the congressional district carefully designed in secret. Black voters were collected in this strangely-elongated district so that their votes wouldn’t interfere in other districts for white, GOP candidates. Corrine Brown won the black district, and the other districts were handed to Republicans. The Supreme Court ruling requires redrawing the districts before the 2016 election, and one of the mandates for deciding congressional districts is that all emails and documents related to drawing the map should be preserved.

Although critics consider the Clinton Foundation to be suspect, the website has posted the names of its donors for years. At the same time, George W. Bush’s foundation refused to disclose names of the donors who provided $500 million, ostensibly for Bush’s presidential library in Texas. Those donations began while Bush was still in office, an ethical problem especially because Bush raised money from foreign donors and didn’t disclose any names until several years later. While president, he also hosted White House dinners and meetings potential library contributors, also unnamed. He continued to do this until the London Sunday Times found that one of Bush’s lobbyist friends solicited $200,000 for the library from someone representing a Central Asian dictator. Reporters fail to find this behavior “scandalous” although Bush’s brother is running for president and may be influenced by the donors.

Reporters even claim that the Clinton Foundation isn’t even a charity: a Wall Street Journal editorial sniped that any good done by the foundation is merely “incidental to its bigger role as a fund-raising network and a jobs program for Clinton political operatives.” Few of the thousands of employees have political ties, and they take services to the poor throughout the world.

One tax-exempt entity overlooked by the media is the “Campaign for Liberty,” subsidized by Ron Paul’s leftover campaign funds and employing political aides and Paul family members. The group reimbursed Ron Paul’s expenses after taxpayers paid the same travel bills, and the leadership is involved in an Iowa investigation of the alleged bribery of a GOP official who transferred loyalty from Michele Bachman to Ron Paul in 2012. Nothing has been said about the “scandalous” problem surround Sen. Rand Paul (R-TX), another GOP presidential candidate.

Although Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) condemns the “constant scandal” surrounding Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, he has suffered little media attention concerning his own controversies. His ties to Florida billionaire Norman Braman and access to Braman’s private plane have largely flown under the radar despite the way that Rubio has done favors for Braman such as $80 million state funding to finance a genomics university and another $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute.

Rubio finally broke his connection with scandal-plagued former Rep. David Rivera by selling his Tallahassee house for $18,000 less than what the two men paid ten years ago. Rivera, who Rubio describes as his “most loyal friend and supporter,” has never been formerly charged, but a former girlfriend told prosecutors about his 2012 shadow campaign to undercut a Democratic rival for Congress before he helped her flee to Nicaragua. A Florida ethics commission fined Rivera for $58,000 because he billed the state for travel and other expenses during his time as a legislator while paying the same expenses from campaign accounts. Rubio followed Rivera’s pattern by using the Republican Party credit to buy personal items and even repair the family van. Even after Rivera’s scandals became public, Rubio hosted a fundraiser for him. Three years ago, Rivera was the reason that Mitt Romney turned Rubio down for his vice-presidential candidate.

Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who spreads lies through books and films about Barack Obama, is so desperate to slime Clinton that he photoshopped a Conferate flag into the background of a 1969 picture of her at Wellesley. He tweeted the doctored photo to 198,000 followers with the message, “Look closely at this Hillary photo; isn’t that a Confederate flag behind her on the bookshelf?” He has retracted the allegation, but the photo will certainly appear on millions of conservatives emails.

Reporters whine about how Clinton won’t talk to them. When she does, they complain that she doesn’t say anything. Neither do the GOP presidential candidates—with the exception of Donald Trump—do. Maybe that’s why Trump is getting so much press time.

The latest smear campaign against Clinton comes from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the most recent Benghazi investigation committee. Asked whether it was right that she delete mails while facing a subpoena, Clinton said, “I’ve never had a subpoena.” Gowdy called her claim “inaccurate,” but the copy of the subpoena that he released was sent after she had turned more than 55,000 pages of work-related emails to the State Department for review, not while she was reviewing which emails should be preserved or deleted. Gowdy’s subpoena came months after the review. As Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said, Gowdy’s release is “nothing but a stunt.” Gowdy had issued a press release last March about issuing the subpoena.

The nitpicking about Clinton continues, ad nauseum, because the GOP has no substance to attack.

January 28, 2015

Fix the Supreme Court’s Constitution

Conservative justices serving on the Supreme Court try to make people believe that every ruling that they make follows the U.S. Constitution literally—just as fundamentalist Christian leaders swear that every word out of their mouths came from their bible. Both conservative elements are wrong, however, and retired Justice John Paul Stevens has written a book suggesting how the constitution can be brought back into its original text. Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution presents these recommendations with an explanation of the problem and the history to the issues.

Following is a summary of these amendments, thanks to a posting on Daily Kos.

The “Anti-Commandeering” Rule: A 1997 5-4 ruling bans Congress from ordering state officials to carry out federal duties because two county sheriffs didn’t want to carry out Brady Act-mandated background checks for firearm sales. Now people prone to violence, such as the Virginia Tech mass shooter in 2007, can easily get guns. The ruling also affects other federal laws such as emergency responses to national catastrophes and acts of terror.

Suggested amendment adding the four words in boldface to the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges and other public officials in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Political Gerrymandering: The practice of gerrymandering, loading districts with people registered in one political party, makes politicians more radical and elections less competitive, according to Stevens. A 1986 Supreme Court ruling eliminated most challenges to state legislatures controlling elections of U.S. House members: “[A] finding of unconstitutionality must [show] continued frustration of the will of a majority of the voters or effective denial to a minority of the voters of a fair chance to influence the political process.” Stevens believes that public power should not be allowed to enhance “the political strength of the majority party.”

Suggested amendment: “Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historic boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political power of the party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion.”

Campaign Finance: Congress passed a law 108 years ago that banned all corporate contributions to political candidates; this federal law was followed by many states passing total bans of corporate activity to influence public policy. The laws were slowly reversed, culminating in the 2010 Supreme Court disaster that gave corporations the unlimited right to finance campaign speech. Feeling that they had not gone far enough, the same five justices struck down any limit on total donations a person could make to candidates four years later, giving rich persons the right to spend millions in a single election. Three “sulky Supremes”—Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas—annually boycott President Obama’s State of the Union speech because he disagrees with their ruling. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the two Koch brothers plan to spend almost $1 billion in the 2016 election—more than the GOP—to control the results. Stevens purports that the problem can be solved by an amendment stating that corporations are not persons and money is not speech.

Suggested amendment: “Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

Sovereign Immunity: Citizens of one state are banned from suing another state in federal court, according to the 11th Amendment. This legal doctrine of “sovereign immunity” originated in 1400 when the king didn’t want to be sued without his consent. It shields the “sovereign,” any of the individual states, from court action by putting it above the law. Stevens disagrees and gives the argument against this amendment from Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that it was so laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.” Chief Justice William Rehnquist began a spate of rulings that extended sovereign immunity and weakened state compliance with national law. For example, Illinois avoided paying damages for non-compliance with a federal law for aiding aged, blind and disabled persons in 1974, and 15 years later the Rehnquist Court used this unwritten state sovereignty rule to keep Congress from authorizing the suing of a state of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. In this case, Maine successfully refused to pay probation workers overtime. According to Stevens, state-owned institutions such as hospitals or police forces should not have a defense to federal claims that private institutions lack.

Suggested amendment: “Neither the Tenth Amendment, the Eleventh Amendment, nor any other provision of this Constitution, shall be construed to provide any state, state agency, or state officer with an immunity from liability for violating any act of Congress, or any provision of this Constitution.”

The Death Penalty: Arguments for the death penalty such as deterrence of crime are invalid, and DNA technology shows that many convicted murders, some already put to death, are innocent of the crime. Supreme Court rulings, including upholding a judge’s jury instruction to choose death when the evidence for and against it is balanced, made the death penalty more likely.

Suggested amendment adding the five words in boldface to the 8th Amendment: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.”

Gun Control: No amendment has been more debated in the past few years than the 2nd Amendment. For over two hundred years, federal judges ruled two limitations of this amendment: it applies only for military purposes; and while it limits the power of the federal government, it does not limit the power of state or local governments to regulate ownership or use of firearms. Twice, however, the Roberts Court ruled against governments trying to control gun violence. One was creating a new constitutional right for a resident in Washington, D.C. to keep a handgun in the home, and the other extended this newly-created constitutional right to states.

Suggested amendment returning the 2nd Amendment to its original meaning and the power of regulating firearms to state and local governments with the five words in boldface: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia, shall not be infringed.” 

In an interview with NPR, Stevens said:

“I think in time that what I have to say about each of these six issues will be accepted as being consistent with what the framers really intended in the first place. I think in time, reason will prevail.”

We can only hope. 

Referenced Supreme Court Cases:

  • Printz v. United States: 1997. 5-4 ruling. Bans Congress from ordering state officials to carry out federal duties. Holding: Scalia, Rehnquist, O’Connor, Kennedy, Thomas; Dissenting: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Bryer.
  • Davis v. Bandemer: 1986. 7-2 ruling. Adopts a lofty and cloudy standard for unconstitutional gerrymandering. Holding: White, Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Burger, O’Connor, Rehnquist; Dissenting: Powell, Stevens.
  • Citizens United v. FEC: 2010. 5-4 ruling. Gives corporations the unlimited right to finance campaign speech. Holding: Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas; Dissenting: Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor.
  • McCutcheon v. FEC: 2014. 5-4 ruling. Gives individuals the right to spend millions in a single election. Holding: Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas; Dissenting: Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan.
  • Edelman v. Jordan: 1974. 5-4 ruling. Lets Illinois avoid paying damages for past non-compliance with a federal law for aiding aged, blind and disabled persons. Holding: Rehnquist, Burger, Stewart, White, Powell; Dissenting: Douglas, Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun.
  • Alden v. Maine: 1999. 5-4 ruling. Cites an unwritten state sovereignty rule imagined to be in the “plan of the [Constitutional] Convention” and forbids Congress to authorize suing a state for violations of Fair Labor Standards Act. Holding: Kennedy, Rehnquist, O’Connor, Scalia, Thomas; Dissenting: Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer.
  • Baze v. Rees: 2008. 7-2 ruling. Holds that Kentucky’s three-drug death penalty system is not “cruel and unusual.” Holding: Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Breyer, Thomas, Scalia, Stevens; Dissenting: Ginsburg, Souter.
  • Kansas v. Marsh: 2006. 5-4 ruling. Allows a judge’s jury instruction to choose the death penalty when aggravating and mitigating evidence were equal in weight. Holding: Thomas, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito; Dissenting: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer.
  • United States v. Miller: 1939. 8-0 ruling. Holds that Congress can ban possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon has no reasonable relation to “a well regulated Militia.” Holding: McReynolds wrote unanimous opinion; Not Involved: William O. Douglas.
  • District of Columbia v. Heller: 2008. 5-4 ruling. Overturns a Washington, D.C., law and creates a new Constitutional right for a civilian in D.C. to keep an enabled handgun at home for self-defense. Holding: Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito; Dissenting: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer.
  • McDonald v. Chicago: 2010. 5-4 ruling. Overturns a Chicago handgun ban and extends the Court’s newly-created Constitutional right for a civilian to keep a handgun to the states. Holding: Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas; Dissenting: Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Stevens.

October 13, 2014

Voting Restriction Rulings in Just One Week

Marriage equality didn’t stop for last weekend. Alaska, the first state to ban marriage equality in 1998, now legally recognizes same-sex marriage after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess of the U.S. District Court of Alaska issued his ruling. The Republican governor plans to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court which legalized marriage equality in Nevada and Idaho last week.

Meanwhile, last week saw a rollercoaster of court decisions about voter suppression laws. In passing these laws, the GOP has openly declared that the reason for photo IDs required for voting is to keep Democrats from have their rights at the ballot box. With fewer than 31 fraud cases in over 10 years, the number of legitimate voters kept from voting has vastly increased.  Joy Dunn, 79, is an eligible voter who found out that new laws had disqualified her vote after her absentee ballot in March’s Arkansas special election was rejected. Dunn has been voting in the state since 1954—when she had to pay a $2 poll tax—and was never told that she had to mail a copy of valid ID with her absentee ballot. Arkansas’ new law includes only $300,000 for full implementation, including education, in 75 counties.

Some North Carolina citizens lost voting rights after the Supreme Court overturned a circuit court decision giving voters same-day registration and counting votes cast in the wrong precinct. This temporary ruling covers the November 4 election although the Court has until next year to make a decision about the restricting voting laws. This decision follows the one that upholds limiting votes in Ohio.

In contrast, the Supreme Court gave voting rights to Wisconsin, making three different positions this year. A federal trial court halted the mandatory photo ID for the upcoming election, a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling and made photo IDS mandatory, and then the Supreme Court overturned the circuit court. Three weeks before the general election, 9 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin didn’t have the necessary voter ID. Even Justice Samuel Alito, one of three judges who voted to keep the restrictive Wisconsin law, admitted that courts should not issue orders affected a state’s election law when the election is near. The accusation of fraud, ostensibly the reason behind the Wisconsin law, found no cases that could have been prevented by a voter ID law. The following chart, an official one from the state to help people “understand” the photo ID law, may have persuaded the other judges how impossibly difficult Wisconsin was trying to make voting.

Wisconsin_voter_id_chart-770x1024 (1)

(The chart is fuzzy, but then so is the concept.)

Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the majority opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008) used to validate restrictive voter ID laws, ruled against the Wisconsin law. He wrote that people needed a government-issued photo ID, but different states make far more restrictive mandates. His most recent decision describes new voting laws as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.” He also pointed out that the ratio of voter fraud is one for every 14.6 million voters and said that his panel of judges supporting the Wisconsin law “is not troubled by the absence of evidence.”

Texas voters also got a break when U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down that state’s mandatory photo ID for voting, calling it an “unconstitutional poll tax” intended to discriminate against Hispanic and African-American citizens that creates “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” A panel of judges had previously stopped the law because it posed “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor,” but the striking down of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court a year ago allowed Texas to reinstate the law. As before, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, promised that the state would “immediately appeal.”

People who cheerfully maintain that voter ID makes no difference in voting are now faced with a report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ nonpartisan investigative agency.  It found that “states that toughened their voter identification laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not, with disproportionate falloffs among black and younger voters.” The decline was among eligible and registered voters, not people trying to defraud the government. The greatest affect was on voters 23 and younger, new voters, and blacks. Voters with driver’s licenses or state IDs range from 84 percent of 95 percent, depending on the state; these IDs cost from $14.50 to $58.50. The GAO also found no voter-fraud problem. Despite this information, the Supreme Court is permitting North Carolina’s law to eliminate same-day voter registration and to ban votes cast in the wrong precincts. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

When the GOP took over states in 2010, the legislatures and governors gerrymandered the districts to put as many of their party into Congress as possible. The ten worst gerrymandered districts in 2013 are here. Federal judges have declared the congressional maps in Virginia to be unconstitutional because they isolate blacks into a single district. The order won’t go into effect this year and the case can be appealed to SCOTUS, but at this time the judges have demanded a new map by April. Republicans need to get the Democratic governor to agree to their redistricting. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe won’t sign their map, the judges may end up redrawing the districts. Virginia’s District 3 shows how contorted that gerrymandering has become.

543485db14a74.image

Florida emerged victorious in the gerrymandering debate. The GOP is not only permitted to use the existing racially-drawn map this year but also allowed to have only a slightly changed version in 2016.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case about Alabama’s gerrymandering that may have raised the number of blacks in one district to over 70 percent. The Supreme Court is also considering a challenge by Arizona Republicans to the state’s district map after an independent redistricting commission was mandated in 2000 to take politics out of the process. The GOP wants to draw lines for noncompetitive Republican districts. After the upcoming election, gerrymandering may become the next hot-button political topic.

In Ohio, John Husted has figured out a way to put his name front and center inside polling places. After doing everything possible to suppress the vote, Ohio’s Secretary of State put his name in big letters on an “informational” poster that his office requires all polling places to post. One county election official may not to post the name because Husted’s spokesman says that doing so is not a “formal directive.”

Another racial voting issue concerns American Indians. They’ve been able to vote for only 90 years, even a shorter time in states such as Montana that forbid those on reservations from voting because the state didn’t consider them taxpaying citizens. Other states such as Wyoming and Arizona used literacy tests to stop American Indian suffrage. South Dakota directly stopped all American Indians from voting until the 1940s, and Utah Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that Indians could be kept from voting because they were “neither acquainted with the processes of government, nor conversant with activities of the outside world generally.” Even the 1965 Voting Act required an extension ten years later specifying coverage for “language minorities” like American Indians.

Currently, South Dakota suppresses the American Indian vote by failing to put a pre-election satellite voting and registration site in an isolated part of Pine Ridge Reservation despite receiving funding for the facility. Voters have to travel 54 miles roundtrip on poorly-maintained dirt roads in the snow to register and cast ballots.

Another piece of insanity surrounding the election deals with TV commercials. Laws from 1927 and 1934 require that these ads, and those on radio, identify who is paying for the “information. The FCC waived responsibility in this area and now puts the burden of finding this information on the listener/viewer to find out if the entity identified on the ad is not the “true sponsor.” Dark money in Super PACs makes it almost impossible for individuals to discover who is paying for these ads. Even the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, the decision that gave almost unlimited donation amounts to campaigns, stated that disclosure requirements are  “justified based on a governmental interest in ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information’ about the sources of election-related spending” and help to “deter actual corruption and avoid the appearance of corruption by exposing large contributions and expenditures to the light of publicity.” Justices made the same claim in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) and McConnell v. FEC (2003). The FCC needs to note the Court’s claim that robust speech cannot occur “when organizations hide themselves from the scrutiny of the voting public.”

Over half the contributions for general election advertising comes from undisclosed sources that overwhelmingly benefits GOP candidates. Almost 80 percent of this money comes from secret money donated to the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers Freedom Partners, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Restrictive voter laws will disenfranchise about 5 million low-income and minorities voters. Facing these odds, progressives will be lucky to get any representation in state and federal legislative chambers.

April 17, 2014

Media Fails to Publish News

oregonianI tolerated The Oregonian, Portland’s newspaper, despite its conservative bent because I support newspapers. Founded in 1850, it’s the oldest continuously published newspaper on the West Coast. The newspaper went to delivery only four times a week in city areas and got thinner and thinner. I wondered why I was paying for it, but I’m a newspaper supporter. The last straw was when it switched to a tabloid image—or broadsheet format—with much more colored ink and much less news. [New format on right.]

To show my allegiance to newspapers I’ll keep Eugene’s Register Guard, but most of my news will come from the internet that gives me information that I don’t get anywhere else. Here’s a sample of news that doesn’t appear in my newspaper:

Outsourcing (or offshoring) is the biggest reason for unemployment. In 14 years, U.S. multinational corporations, accounting for 20 percent of the labor force, have cut 2.9 million jobs in this country while increasing overseas employment by 2.4 million. Offshoring is a bigger contributor to unemployment in the U.S. than laziness, the way that the GOP claims.

In 2010, the bottom 80 percent of the people had 12 percent of the net worth, two-thirds of the 18 percent they had in 1983. The top 20 percent had the remaining 88 percent in 2010, and the top 1 percent alone had 35 percent of all net worth.  This map shows the percentage of the United States that people own.

land mass

The corporate-controlled American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) drafts laws and passes them to lawmakers to implement. These are some of ALEC’s laws: Stand Your Ground, voter ID, right to work that eliminates unions, health savings account bills to benefit health care companies, and tobacco company privileges.

The United States has more people in prison than any other country. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. China, with a population four times the size of the U.S., has 1.6 million people in prison—700,000 fewer than the 2.3 in the U.S. That’s more than 6 and a half times the 350,00 prisoners in the U.S. 40 years ago

incarcerated_americans_zpsb7c891bd

In 2009, non-Hispanic blacks, 13.6% of the population, accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population. At the same time, whites accounted for 69.2 percent of arrests in 2011.

U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world at $8,233 per person. Norway is second at $5,388. The percentage of GDP is also much higher in the U.S., 17.6 percent in the U.S. with the next country, the Netherlands, at 12 percent.

After the Wall Street crash in 1929, the Glass-Steagall Act protected the people in the country for 66 years. It separated risky financial investments from government-backed deposits by stopping banks from using federally-insured savings to make risky investment. Without this separation, taxpayers cover the cost of losses from risky investments. In 1999, the Act was overturned in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Less than ten years later the country went into a deep recession that continues because of Wall Street’s control.

The GOP sweep of over half the states in the country allowed them to rearrange congressional districts after the 2010 census. The Republican Redistricting Majority Project was so successful that they could take over the House of Representatives with fewer Republican than Democratic votes. In 2012, 1.4 million more votes came from Democrats than Republicans, but the GOP took the House by 234 to 201 seats. Through gerrymandering, GOP state legislators redrew districts in Arizona, Florida, Michigan North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia with the goal of putting Democrats into just a few districts. In North Carolina, 51 percent of the state voted Democratic, but the state sent 9 Republicans to the House as compared to only 4 Democrats. In the same way, these Republican legislators keep their seat although the majority of voters oppose them.

votes

The new majority in a Senate of 100 is now 60. President Obama’s first term saw a record number of filibusters, and 375 bills didn’t even come to a vote in the Senate because GOP members just threatened to filibuster. During the first six months of 2013, Congress passed only 15 bills that were signed into law. This is 8 fewer than the first six months of 2012 and 19 fewer than 2011. When Senate Democrats threatened to reform the filibuster, the GOP had held up 79 nominees for the U.S. Circuit Court and Courts of Appeal despite their qualifications.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy was designed to gain political power by exploiting the greatest number of ethnic prejudices. In 1970, Kevin Philips, Republican and Nixon campaign strategist, believed that the GOP couldn’t get more than 10 to 20 percent of the black vote but that would be enough to elect Republicans. He said:

“Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

The GOP used this strategy in 2008 and 2012 when it attacked Medicaid, Social Security, labor unions, and Obamacare. These programs benefit more white seniors, retirees, women, and children, but Republicans have convinced many in the United States that they are handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks and minorities. That’s the reason that GOP legislators and candidates continue to fight these programs although the majority of their constituents benefit from them. 

GOP tax plans shift the tax burden from the wealthy and onto working people. For example, when Ohio repealed the estate tax, the only people who benefits were those with estates bigger than $338,000. GOP wants to change from income to consumption taxes because the latter are paid primarily by people who earn the least. The GOP keeps capital gain taxes low, 20 percent, instead of the 39.6 percent top rate of other income for the wealthy. Despite their belief that they refuse to raise taxes, Republicans were comfortable with letting the payroll tax expire because these are only for the first $117,000 of wages.

shares of taxes

The United States has lost 40-50 percent of the country’s commercial bee hives this year because of colony collapse disorder. This is important because one-fourth of food in the country depends on honeybee pollination. Instead, the media typically reports something like this: “Thousands of Bees Attack Texas Couple, Kill Horses.” The loss of bees is connected to toxic chemicals in pesticides from Bayer and Monsanto. Acting like a nerve agent, the main chemical compromises a bee’s ability to feed and make its way back to its hive. These chemicals have long been banned in Europe.

The number of temporary workers has grown by more than 50 percent to almost 2.7 million since the recession ended. Including freelancers, contract workers, and consultants raises the number to almost 17 million workers who not directly employed by the companies who hire them. That’s 12 percent of the workforce. Temporary workers receive low pay, fewer benefits, and almost no job security. Because they cannot spend as freely as permanent workers, the economy suffers.

In 2011, only 22 percent of the people had heard of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. A 2013 Gallup poll showed 79 percent of Americans want restrictions on campaign contributions to House and Senate candidates. Also 50 percent support a publicly funded campaign finance system with private contributions completely eliminated. The McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court decisions that put far fewer restrictions on campaign contributions was far more widely announced this spring. The media need to keep talking and writing about a decision that has made the United States an oligarchy, owned by the wealthy, just like Ukraine.

Six corporations–Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom, Comcast, and CBS–control about 90% of the media in the U.S. They want to make money so they use the guidelines, “if it bleeds, it leads.” They print what Democrats and Republicans say but not any facts. They skip “dangerous” facts about global warming, peak oil, population growth, political lobbying, defense spending, etc. Public broadcasting, including NPR, is becoming farther right as people like the Koch brothers buy the media organization. When two comedy shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, have more news than the so-called news shows, people are not receiving the news.

August 26, 2013

Women’s Equality Day: Don’t Destroy Right To Vote

President Barack Obama has declared that today is Women’s Equality Day; 93 years ago the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, mandating that women in the United States can vote, became law, thanks to 24-year-old Harry Burn, a member of the Tennessee Assembly, and his mother, Mrs. J.L. Burn (Febb Ensminger) of Niota.

Proposed by Congress on June 14, 1919, the amendment needed ratification from a minimum of 36 states out of the existing 48. By Summer 1920, 35 states had approved the amendment. Three more states refused to call special sessions, but Tennessee met to vote on the proposed amendment. Burn was committed to vote against the ratification until he received a letter from his mother, which he held during the voting session on August 18, 1920. The letter read in part:

“Dear Son: Hurrah and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt! I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the “rat” in ratification. Your mother”

Burn’s “yea” vote broke the 48-48 tie, allowing the amendment to move into the U.S. Constitution. The next day he spoke to the House, telling them that his mother had asked him to vote in favor of the amendment and that she had always taught him that “a good boy always does what his mother asks him to do.”

Nine-three years after Burn voted for women’s suffrage, the constitutional right to vote is in danger. Within the past few years, 12 states passed laws requiring that voters show photo identification in order to vote, and another 13 states are considering this legislation. Other punitive laws include shortening the time to vote, restricting the number of precincts, limited voter registration, purging legitimate voters from registration, and putting hurdles in the way of voter reinstatement. It is estimated that at least 5 million legal voters may be disenfranchised from voting, despite the fact that voter fraud at the polls is almost non-existent.

Currently North Carolina is the epitome of voting restrictions, trying to prevent voting by college students although the Supreme Court ruled against this practice. Ironically, whenever Gov. Pat McCrory was asked about the specifics of these laws, he indicated that he didn’t know what was in them although he signed them.

These decisions from GOP-controlled county election boards are shown by the the one in Watauga County:

  • Eliminate the Appalachian State University (ASU) early one-stop voting site.
  • Outlaw any verbal public comment at Board meetings.
  • Require that the 27-year Elections Board Director not be allowed to meet with anyone in her office without supervision.
  • Mandate that anyone calling into the local BOE office have their names recorded.
  • Move the “New River” precinct (a heavily populated precinct in and around the town of Boone) out into the very corner of the precinct into a virtually unknown location and as far away from municipal voters as possible.
  • Combine three Boone precincts into one Super Precinct consisting of 9,300 voters and 35 parking spaces—and as far away from Appalachian State University as possible.

The Supreme Court ruling against the Voting Rights Act, allowing the Justice Department to allow punitive voting “reforms” from going into effect, is just one step to support the GOP plan to win elections by stopping Democrats from voting. A bigger problem is the opinion that Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in an Arizona case about its requirement that new voters present citizenship documents, stating that states—not Congress—decide who has the right to vote.

Also Bush v. Gore (2000), which appointed George W. Bush as president, ruled that U.S. citizens don’t have a constitutional right to vote for the president. State legislatures control that right through their legal ability to appoint presidential electors. The only control that the constitution has on voting is to ban discrimination on the basis of race (15th Amendment), sex (19th Amendment), and age (26th Amendment). In fact, when Susan Myrick explained the North Carolina law, she said, that people who went to the wrong precinct could use provisional ballots. She then said, “[The provisional ballot] probably won`t be counted.”

Not all Republicans are satisfied with the GOP attempt to stop voters. When former Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke in North Carolina, he said that the state’s voting restrictions are bad for the public—and the Republican Party.

“I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote. It immediately turns off a voting block the Republican Party needs. These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away. You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud. How can it be widespread and undetected?”

Dallas County is the first county in Texas to request an injunction against the state’s voter ID law. By a 3-2 vote, the commissioners’ court stated that the requirements would disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. A hearing is set for September 27 with a trial possibly next summer. Meanwhile, several counties have either had or are scheduling elections.

Texas is already trying to defend itself against a federal lawsuit because a federal court has found that the state used racial discrimination to draw its district lines. Texas AG Greg Abbott’s defense uses the claim that the state drew the lines in an effort to win the elections: “[i]n 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats.”

Following is a letter that I wrote to my local newspaper. Readers are welcome to use any part of it that they wish to educate their community about the voter suppression in the United States:

“To the Editor:

“Seventy-one years ago, 92-year-old Rosanell Eaton was one of the first blacks in North Carolina to pass a literacy test allowing her to vote. In the year of her first vote, 1942, women in the United States had been able to vote for 22 years after the 19th Amendment to the Constitution became law on August 26, 1920—42 years after it was first proposed.

“Now, 93 years after women earned the vote, more females vote than men, but state voter-suppression laws are threatening women with loss of the vote by demanding photo ID at the polls. The argument for these draconian laws is voter fraud. Misrepresentation at the polls, however, has averaged one case each year for the past ten years. On the other hand, photo ID laws disenfranchise millions of voters.

“Eaton is one of those. Her name on her birth certificate differs from the name on her driver’s license and voter registration card, and taking care of this problem will require excessive time and money. For example, when 91-year-old Virginia Lasser went to the Tennessee department of motor vehicles to get a photo ID, she found a line of 100 people in front of her, no place for her to sit, and no help from state workers even after she asked. Lasater has voted and worked on campaigns for 70 years.

“Dorothy Cooper, 96, took a number of documents, including her birth certificate, to get a photo ID, but the birth certificate had her maiden name. She was denied, despite the fact that she voted under the Jim Crow laws of the 20th century.

“Viviette Applewhite, 93, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago but can’t get a photo ID because her papers were stolen from her purse. She paid the fees to the state of Pennsylvania for a birth certificate but still wasn’t able to get it.

“Many elderly people don’t have birth certificates because they were born at home. Some states require a birth certificate to get a photo ID, but people cannot get a birth certificate without a photo ID. The certificates also cost between $7 and $30, a large amount of money for the very poor.

“The voter suppression laws don’t refer specifically to women, but that gender is affected in greater numbers than men. Most men have not changed their names since they were born and are more likely to have documents from their work and their military service. Women who worked as domestics are far less likely to have Social Security cards and drivers’ licenses than men.

“Only 66 percent of voting-age women with proof of citizenship have a document with their current legal names. Also 52 percent of women don’t have their legal names on their birth certificates. In some states, women are required to bring both their birth certificates and documents proving legal citizenship—twice as many documents as men have to bring to the polls in order to vote.

“At this time, over a dozen states have photo ID laws, and another 15 have pending legislation or laws that are being questioned in court. With the Supreme Court decision that states can make any restrictive laws that they wish, that situation may change. Currently, Oregon is the only state in the nation that requires vote by mail although occasionally politicians consider changing the law, using the argument that many other activities such as buying alcohol or flying require photo ID. We hope that they will remember that transportation and purchases are not guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution; voting is.

“If you are one of the people in the United States who think there is no problem in obtaining the necessary photo ID in states with these laws, you are a member of the elite. The women of the United States and of Oregon celebrate the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and Oregon’s voting laws that give us equality in the voting process.

You can commemorate Women’s Equality Day by spreading the word about voter suppression in the United States.

August 7, 2013

Liberal Media Would Publish This News

Conservatives moan about the liberal media and praise the lying Fox Network for giving them the facts. Daily Kos has published 15 items that a truly liberal media would publish, news that is not made public in mainstream media.

Off shoring, sometimes called outsourcing is the reason for unemployment instead of the conservative claim of laziness. U.S. multinational corporations have increased employment overseas by 2.4 million while cutting 2.9 million jobs in the United States, and they account for only about 20 percent of the labor force.

In 2010, 20% of the people held approximately 88% of the net worth in the U.S., and the bottom 80 percent of the people held only 12 percent of net worth. The top 1% alone held 35% of all net worth. The bottom 80 percent has lost one-third of its net worth since 1983. The following chart illustrates the great discrepancy in net worth within the country.

if land mass were divided

One group controlled by corporate organizations drafts conservative laws and then distributes them to legislatures. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is responsible for the nation’s laws of stand your ground, voter ID, right to work without rights, school privatizing, health savings account bills to benefit health care companies, tobacco industry legislation, and more. ALEC is meeting in Chicago this weekend to hand legislation to lawmakers before they go back into session.

The U. S. has the most people in prison of any country in the world. This nation has 5 percent of the world’s population but incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. 2.3 criminals. China has four times the number of people with 1.6 million people in prison.  Crime rate declined by 25 percent in the U.S. between 1988 to 2008 while the number of prisoners rose from 350,000 in 1972 to 2.3 prisoners.

incarcerated_americans_zpsb7c891bd

In 2009, non-Hispanic blacks, while only 13.6% of the population, accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population. In 2011, according to FBI statistics, whites accounted for 69.2% of arrests. This is in a supposedly “post-racial” time.

U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world at $8,233. Norway is second with $5,388. The U.S. total amount of GDP spent on health care is also the highest of any country in the world at 17.6 percent. The next closest country is the Netherlands at 12%. Conservatives claim that a competitive market will bring prices down, but obviously it doesn’t.

The Glass-Steagall Act separated risky financial investments from government backed deposits for 66 years after the crash of the market in 1929 . Banks could not take your federally insured savings to make risky investments. The law’s repeal in 1999  allowed commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies to consolidate with no conflict of interest from anyone. The loss of Glass-Steagall led to the recession in 2008 and continues to cause financial problems for everyone except corporations and the wealthiest people. And it’s only getting worse.

Since the 1980s, the bank deregulation has grown into a legal scam as they purchase commodities such as aluminum, oil, wheat, cotton and coffee as well as oil pipelines, ports, and energy distributors and drive up prices. For example, oil speculation may account for one-third of the price of a barrel of oil, costing $10 for each fill-up at the pump.

With the overwhelming conservative takeover of many states in the 2010 election, Republicans were able to redraw national congressional districts to rig the election of a majority of GOP members of the House. In the districts across the nation, Democrats gained more than 1.4 million votes than Republicans, yet the GOP has control of the House with a majority of 234 to 201 seats. Redistricting won’t happen again until 2020 after the census, leaving the GOP to probably control the House until the people they represent understand that they are not benefited by their Republican representatives. [photo]

gerrymandering

The filibuster has been used a record number of time since Obama was elected President. From 2008-2012, 375 bills weren’t even allowed to come to a vote in the Senate because Republicans threatened the filibuster. Far more were probably not even introduced because of the filibuster threat. In the first six months of 2013, Congress has passed only 15 bills that were signed into law, eight fewer than in the first 6 months of 2012 and 19 fewer than 2011. Until the Democrats in the Senate threatened to reform the filibuster, the GOP held up 79 of President Obama’s nominees for the U.S. Circuit Court and Courts of Appeal regardless of qualifications.

Corporations now have excessive control over elections because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. In a 2011 poll, only 22 percent of people had heard of this ruling until they took the survey. Although 77 percent of the people think that corporations have more control over the political process than people, they don’t know why.

The Southern Strategy, exploiting ethnic prejudice, gained its popularity and name from President Richard Nixon’s campaign strategist, Kevin Philips. His position was to get blacks to register as Democrats in the South so that the whites would move to the Republican party. By 1908, the percentage of minorities was so high, however, that Republicans had to create punitive voting laws. In addition, the GOP attacked Medicaid, Social Security, labor unions, and Obamacare–programs which, though they benefit more white seniors, retirees, women, and children, have been sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks and minorities. As H.R. Haldeman’s diary quoted Nixon:

“P [President] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

U.S. tax cuts primarily benefit the wealthy. A progressive tax program is designed to tax people very little as they are starting out and progressively increase their rates as they do better. Republican plans shift the tax burden from the wealthy onto working people. For example, the Ohio GOP repealed the estate tax for the portion of estates over $338,000. Other states such as North Carolina want to transfer from income taxes to consumption taxes that increase the percentage of taxes paid by the poorest people. Capital gain taxes are only 20 percent instead of the rate of other income which is closer to 35 percent.

Colony collapse disorder caused the loss of 40-50 percent of commercial U.S. bee hives. Although most people care little about this loss, one-fourth of our food depends on honeybee pollination. In Texas, though, the media address bees in this fashion: “Thousands of Bees Attack Texas Couple, Kill Horses.”

The number of temporary workers has grown by more than 50 percent since the recession ended to nearly 2.7 million. Temporary workers comprise 12 percent of the workforce, 17 million workers. About one-third of these are in manufacturing. Because they get lower pay, fewer benefits, and extremely limited job security, they spend less freely and fail to boost the economy. Economists think that this is a long-term trend.

Six corporations–Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom, Comcast, and CBS–control roughly 90% of the media in the U.S. Watch for the stories following the hook of “if it bleeds, it leads”—such as the man who used a SUV to run over people at the Venice beach in California. Or the attention to the Fort Hood trial as the shooter acts as his own lawyer and questions witnesses. Also the way that the media reports what politicians say but don’t bother to fact-check the statements.

One that is missing from the above list is the GOP’s refusal to increase the minimum wage, not even to match what it was over 40 years ago. The following map shows how many hours of minimum wage work are required to just rent an apartment.

hours needed apartment

What’s missing is reporting about population growth, political lobbying, government’s role, military expenditures, rape on campuses, privatization of prisons and schools, gun violence, nuclear energy—the list goes on and on.

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