Nel's New Day

March 1, 2016

Check Out Margaret & Helen!

If you follow just one blog, you might want to consider “Margaret and Helen,” subtitled “Best Friends for 60 Years and Counting.” Helen Philpot learned to blog so that she could blog with her best friend, Margaret Schmechtman. Philpot lives in Texas, and Schmechtman lives in Texas. Their last names have been changed because, as Helen wrote, “We got a few scary emails when I first wrote about Sarah Palin.”

Today’s post, as always, tells it like it is: “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and hates immigrants, gays and people of color then what you have is a Republican duck.”

Thank you, Helen! You rock!

Margaret, once again I find myself stating the obvious – of course the KKK is a part of the Republican base.  Are Republicans really trying to suddenly be outraged by that?  When you hate immigrants, hate gays, question the patriotism of the first black President, use war to solve all your problems… Well hell, Margaret, I could have just used those exact same words to actually describe the KKK rather than the current Republican party.

The entire Republican leadership is culpable for the rise of Trump.  For years they have suppressed minority voters, denied rights to gays, and vilified immigrants.  How in the hell can the party of Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, Sarah Palin, Paul LePage, Mike Huckabee, Jason Rapert, Jon Hubbard, Loy Mauch, Bob McDonnell, Haley Barbour, Jeff Sessions,  Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, George Allen, … suddenly be offended by Donald Trump?  Hell, the list of racist, homophobic, immigrant-hating Republican politicians is so long, I haven’t even scratched the surface.  And who do you think voted them into office?

The numbers speak for themselves.

The KKK thinks Obama is a Muslim.

Almost half of the Republican Party thinks Obama is a Muslim.

The KKK is anti-immigration.

A majority of Republicans support a ban on all Muslim immigration and over half support an increase in the deportation of Mexican immigrants.

The KKK promotes hate crimes against homosexuals and is adamantly opposed to same sex marriage.

Almost 2/3 of Republicans do not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same sex marriage.

The KKK believes African Americans are second class citizens.

Republican controlled state houses have systemically passed laws to suppress the African American vote.

The KKK, small as it is, seems to do best in the Deep South where Republicans do best.  Coincidence?  Oh honey, bless your heart.  I have lived most of my life next door to women who cook and think like Paula Deen.

The Republican leadership can wish all it wants that Donald Trump isn’t their front runner, but in reality they can put wishes in their right hand and shit in their left hand and I promise you that the left one will always  fill up first. If they thought Donald Trump was electable the GOP would be blaming CNN for a faulty earpiece.

In truth, for the first time in my life I have enjoyed watching a few minutes of Fox News.  Those folks are so bent out of shape over this they could kiss their own behind while enjoying the sunshine on their face.  If Bill O’Reilly and company were to be totally honest, they aren’t quite sure what to do right now considering the KKK is probably a ratings point or two for the network.

I have no problem saying what the journalists seem unwilling to say. Until GOP voters demand that the party change its platform, to be a Republican today means you have more in common with the KKK than you probably care to admit.

Donald Trump was endorsed by a legitimate portion of the Republican base and the party leaders are upset that their little secret got out. I mean it.  Really.

Thanks, Margaret and Helen! And I’ll add the kerfuffle about Trump’s taxes. Furious with his refusal to release the information, Rubio and Cruz bragged about releasing their own—but only their summaries for the past few years, not the tax returns, were made public. As the Washington Post stated, “Without the full returns, key details about Cruz’s and Rubio’s family financial dealings – such as precise sources of income, deductions and amounts donated to charity – were not revealed.” Tax lawyer Martin Schenkman said, “The gross numbers without the schedules don’t tell you anything.” Cruz said he was just doing what Rubio did and didn’t plan to release any more tax information at this time.

As Trump and Cruz continue their battle after Super Tuesday’s wins today—and Rubio trying to moving into the big guys’ arena–there will be far more hypocrisy in the GOP.

 

January 23, 2016

GOP Presidential Candidate Climate Deniers

Midwinter Meetings for the American Library Association are typically at the end of January. This one this year in Boston was unusually early—January 8-11. If we have met at the customary time, over 10,000 people would have been unable to get to the conference or stranded in the Northeast as a blizzard threatens 50 million people on the East Coast. With this storm, we can expect Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) or one of his colleagues to bring another snowball onto the Senate floor to prove that climate change doesn’t exist. Once again, they lack the education—or willingness to accept science—to understand that “Snowmageddons” is all a part of the human-created changes in climate around the world.

Once again, climatologists try to explain to the uneducated how warming-fueled ocean temperatures super-charged all this snow. As Thomas Mann, Director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, explained:

“There is peer-reviewed science that now suggests that climate change will lead to more of these intense, blizzard-producing nor’easters, for precisely the reason we’re seeing this massive storm—unusually warm Atlantic ocean surface temperatures (temperatures are in the 70s off the coast of Virginia).”

Extra moisture plus a cold Arctic outbreak equals monster snowfalls, he said, pointing out that massive winter storms are favored by climate change.

Levom Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, added:

“At present sea surface temperatures are more the 3F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the NE coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10 to 15% higher as a result. Up to half of this can be attributed to climate change.”

A long-term pattern of more extreme precipitation, especially in Northeast winters, has led to superstorms predicted by climate scientists. Trenberth stated that “all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.” The U.K. Met Office explained:

 “Basic physics tells us that a warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture — at a rate of approximately 7 per cent increase per degree [Celsius] warming. This is expected to lead to similar percentage increases in heavy rainfall, which has generally been borne out by models and observed changes in daily rainfall.”

When the temperature drops far enough down for snow, the storms will be fueled by more water vapor and thus be more intense themselves. The result is fewer snowstorms in regions close to the rain-snow line, such as the central United States, but with more intense snowstorms in the area when they do occur, just like more intense snowstorms in generally cold regions.

Climate warming is not enough to end below-freezing temperatures during midwinter but large enough to put more water vapor into the air. Studies show that warmer-than-normal winters favor snow storms as shown by wide fluctuations during the twentieth century, which experienced upward trends corresponding with strong cyclonic activity. Most of the United States had 71 to 80 percent of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years.

Climate change also causes snowstorms to be longer. The changing jet stream results in slower storm systems and longer periods of heavy precipitation.

Scientists announced that 2015 was the warmest year on record, the second year in a row. The world is on a trajectory of rapid global warming. Fifteen of NOAA’s 16 hottest-recorded years have occurred since 2000, and last year was the 39th consecutive year in which global temperatures have been higher than the 20th century average.  To Democrats, these facts make the fight against climate change more urgent than ever. Yet GOP presidential candidates laughed at Bernie Sanders when he said that climate change is the greatest threat to the U.S., preferring to stick with international terrorism. (It’s easier to scare the people in the U.S. with this position.) GOP candidates’ positions:

Donald Trump: The snowstorms are just “weather” until someone can prove otherwise to him.  Global warming is a “hoax.

Ted Cruz: He uses incomplete data in an attempt to show that satellite data shows no warming in the past 17 years.

Marco Rubio: Climate change exists, but the U.S. shouldn’t bother with addressing any problems in this area if other countries don’t do the same thing. The Paris climate deal is “ridiculous.”  The U.S. can’t limit its economy to tackle climate change.

Ben Carson: “There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused. Gimme a break.” His spokesman tried to cover for his ignorance by explaining that Carson is a “questioner” and “could be persuaded.”

Jeb Bush: He follows Rubio, calling himself a climate “skeptic.”

Chris Christie: Although New Jersey has met clean air goals and expanded zero-emission electricity—according to the candidate—he doesn’t like government intervention “to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow us [sic] by ourselves is going to fix the climate.”

John Kasich: He admits a problem with climate change but doesn’t “want to overreact to it.” Ohio is a fossil fuel-producing state (aka fracking) so Kasich doesn’t want to “worship the environment.”  Last September, he said, “I don’t believe that humans are the primary cause of climate change.”

Carly Fiorina: The energy industry should innovate on its own instead of having climate change regulations. The Paris conference was “baloney.”

Rick Santorum: A skeptic of climate change, he follows Trump and Cruz. He wants more than 97 percent of the scientists to believe in human-created climate change. “Lots of things cause climate change,” he said.

Mike Huckabee: In the past, he said that people need to take care of the Earth, a biblical precept, but he’s moved to “science is not settled” on climate change.

Rand Paul: Nature is a bigger part of climate change than humans. The planet has always had different climates, according to Paul, although he left out the parts in which humans couldn’t live on it.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the only candidate who believed in climate change, and he’s gone.

climate-matrix-640px-8_0

The Earth’s average land temperature of 2.39 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth-century average should make it difficult for climate deniers to claim that global warming stopped in 1998. Record-high temperatures in ten months don’t show the “pause” that some people claim. Republican climate deniers are now much quieter than in the past, but they still won’t agree. Pundit David Brooks wrote that the GOP “has come to resemble a Soviet dictatorship” about climate science: even politicians who know the truth about global warming say otherwise “because they’re afraid the thought police will knock on their door and drag them off to an AM radio interrogation.”

A month ago, the North Pole temperature was 50 degrees higher than normal. Manhattan was over 70 degrees on Christmas, and people were surfing in Queens. The storm system drawing warm air to the North Pole caused recent tornadoes in Texas and heavy rain and flooding in the Mid- and Southeast. A January hurricane in the north Atlantic was the first at this time of the year in 78 years. During an upper level low pressure center above Tucson in December created a temperature of -26 degrees at about 18,000 feet while the temperature at the same altitude in Barrow, Alaska was just only a few degrees colder.

states prepared

 

Do you live in a state that’s preparing for climate change disaster? Check the above map to see what grade your state receives.

January 3, 2016

Media Coddles White Lawbreakers in Oregon

Two central Oregon ranchers, father and son, were convicted of arson on public land in 2012 in an attempt to cover up an illegal deer slaughter on federal land in 2001. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan Dwight ruled that Hammond, 73, spend three months in prison, and his son, 46-year-old Stephen, be incarcerated for a year. Under Amanda Marshall, then U.S. attorney for Oregon, a successful government appeal under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 changed the minimum sentence to five years, and the Hammonds are due to report back to prison tomorrow. At the trial, witnesses, including a relative of Hammonds, had testified that Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” The government spent $600,000 fighting the fires.

watch towerEnter heavily armed gun-toting men this past November, including at three sons of Cliven Bundy, who had gathered around the Nevada rancher and aimed their guns at federal officials last year because they thought that Bundy shouldn’t have to pay his debt to the U.S. government for grazing his cattle on public land. After parading around the small town of Burns, they took over the federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, created 30 miles southeast of Burns by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 from unclaimed government lands. The occupiers declare that they will occupy the facility for “years” and are calling on “patriots” to join them and bring their guns. [Refuge watch tower above]

The men’t goal is not to protect the Hammonds but force the federal government to give the land to local ranchers, miners, and loggers. The land in question was once part of a Northern Paiute reservation established by President Ulysses S. Grant, but whites used violence to force the Paiutes off the reservation in the late 19th century.

ammon bundyClosed for the holiday weekend, the building is now being monitored by federal officials, and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward warned people to avoid the area. The Bundys claimed that about 150 people were in the building, but witnesses report between 12 and 15 are there. Ammon Bundy (right) said, “We are not hurting anybody or damaging any property. We would expect that they understand that we have given them no reason to use lethal force upon us or any other force.” Cliven Bundy said, “If the Hammonds wouldn’t stand …, the people had to do something.”

Several GOP presidential candidates support the Bundys’ actions. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) calls for private ownership of federal land, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) agrees with Paul and blames President Obama for his “assault” on “liberty.” Ben Carson calls the Bundy group “pretty outstanding people” before he rambles on into “freedom.” Donald Trump said, “I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk and the people that are so loyal…I respect him.” Mike Huckabee is another strong Bundy supporter.

The Hammonds are willing to go back to prison,  and many Burns’ residents, who have posted signs with “Militia go home,” are unhappy with the out-of-towners wandering the town while openly carrying guns. Rancher Melodi Molp said that the Bundys “are way more aggressive than what we want to do,” and Candy Tiller said, “I’m worried that there’s a trigger-happy idiot out there.”  She added, “This is crazy. This does not fit. These people need to go away.” Chris Briels, Burns fire chief for 24 years, said that the militia “seems like a bunch of people ready to shoot.  I don’t want that in my county.” Rancher Gary Marshall wants the Bundys to let the community “think and decide for ourselves” and said that 50 percent of the employed people in the county of about 7,000 people work for the government. “A lot of the people who work at the BLM are of families of the community,” said Marshall. “It’s not in any way a ‘them against us’ kind of a scenario here.”

Federal employees report they have been followed around town and to their homes. Three men, one of them with a gun strapped to his hip, and a woman went up to the county sheriff’s parents at an American Legion yard sale. When they criticized the sheriff, his 74-year-old mother, accompanied by the sheriff’s 78-year-old father, said that she didn’t need their protection from the government. Later the men went to the sheriff to say that she had threatened them.

After Sheriff Ward told “militia” organizers that he would not give sanctuary to the Hammonds, he received death threats from people in other states who called him an “enemy of the people.” He said, “What we’ve been threatened with here is civil unrest and the insinuations of armed rebellion.” According to Ward, the groups has come to town under false pretenses: instead of supporting local ranchers, they want to overthrow the government.

Mainstream media expresses little concern about a group of armed men taking over a federal building, depicting the event as a “peaceful protest.” Fox’s early report overlooked the danger of men in camo outfits with long guns who are frightening Harney County’s residents. Ryan Bundy tweeted that the self-appointed “militia” are “willing to kill and be killed if necessary.” Ammon Bundy said, “We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.” One member of the group, Jon Ritzheimer, posted a goodbye video to his family on YouTube today and said “I want to die a free man.” For safety purposes, Harney County schools will be closed this week.

ABC didn’t bother to investigate the explosive situation: the network merely copied Fox news with the headline, “Peaceful Protest Followed by Oregon Wildlife Refuge Action.” NBC’s headline calls the armed men “Rancher’s Rights Protesters.”

The state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, used its conservative bent to whitewash past events concerning the Hammonds although a few facts can be cleaned from this article.

  • In 1994, Dwight Hammond was arrested, but not prosecuted, in his dispute regarding water access with the refuge managers when he tried to stop a fence to keep out his cattle.
  • In 1999, Steven Hammond fired shots at hunters on federal land but claimed he was shooting at rabbits. He objected to “authorized commercial hunting of wildlife that temporarily wandered onto barren public land from private land lush with forage” but was convicted of interfering with use of public land.
  • In 2001 the Hammonds claimed that they lit the 2001 fire to take out invasive juniper and didn’t see any reason to put the fire out when it reached public land. They were convicted of arson because of poaching.
  • In 2006, the Hammonds list another fire to keep a lightning-caused fire from burning only the Hammonds’ ranch in spite of a countywide burn ban and endangering firefighters camped nearby.
  • In 2007, the Hammonds were investigated for child abuse. Stephen Hammond, upset because a 16-year-old boy living with them carved initials in his chest with a paperclip, used coarse sand paper to sand them off. Hammond’s mother, Susan told the teen to clean up and “not to have a pity party.” Her husband, Dwight, said it was “decided by the family” to sand off the initials.

According to a new poll, conservative whites are angrier than the rest of the population in the United States because they feel more oppressed than any other group, often from their feelings about having a black president. Three-fourths of Republicans get angry every day about current events, and at least one-third of white people—over three-fourths of the people in the United States—own guns. Exploited by conservative politicians and media, these expressions of fear become increasingly toxic, resulting in the acquisition of increasing gun ownership by people who plan to take over the government. Combining this anger with guns results in increased gun violence.

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd did his usual avoidance of conservative views regarding the latest “militia” standoff. He didn’t asked interview guest Paul anything about the situation, and he nodded sagely while hard-right panelists Washington Post columnists Jennifer Rubin and Sara Fagen, the latter a former political director for George W. Bush’s administration, blamed a weak president and bad foreign policy for all the anger.

Tonight, CBS Evening News segment showed a benign view of the ranchers who determined that they could take public land by force through arson and other acts of violence, one man who abused a teenager, and a group of heavily armed men who charmingly said that they meant no harm as long as the law gave them whatever they wanted. The “militia” wants publicity, and they’re getting plenty of it, much of it positive  Angry armed white men are determined to overthrow the government, undermine the courts, and receive positive media attention for their actions, and the media media is obliging them–because they are white.

November 10, 2015

The Tragedy of Veterans Day

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, a designated time to honor U.S. veterans for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. For many years, being a vet meant moving toward the middle class, a benefit for struggling citizens. Yet today’s United States is a very sad place for many veterans.

One serious problem is health care for veterans who were sexually assaulted while in the military, ten times the rate for women as for men. Reporting these assaults while in the military is frequently ignored which impacts the lack of care later on, especially when military officials warn television stations to not air these stories.

Col. (Ret.) Kathy Platoni, a U.S. Army psychologist for more than three decades, cited problems such as hostile physicians and violations of HIPAA privacy regulations in the VA. Susan Avila Smith, advocate for raped and sexual abused women in the military, told about a woman placed on a VA co-ed psych ward who was forced to watch a New Year’s Day football game with a group of male patients. They cheered their team, and she screamed in fear, remembering her rape by a serviceman. She was strapped to a gurney, legs spread, and left alone in a quiet room instead of receiving appropriate care and support. Only 55 percent of the 150 major VA hospitals have women’s clinics.

Female service members account for about 15 percent of the armed forces, but 46 percent of military sexual assault victims. Of the victims who reported attacks, 62 percent said they received retaliation both professionally and socially because of their reports. According to an estimation, fewer than three out of every 100 sexual assaults in 2012 were prosecuted.

Among the homeless, veterans represent 8.6 percent, down from five years earlier because of efforts to end veterans’ homelessness. Overrepresented are black veterans who comprise 39 percent of the homeless veteran population but only 11 percent of the total veteran population. Feeding America reports that “20 percent of families served by its food banks and pantries include someone who has served in the U.S. military.”

At least ten percent of people on death row today—over 300 inmates—are military veterans although only seven percent of the population has ever served in the military. Many more veterans have been executed, according to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center. Researcher Richard C. Dieter reports that this disturbing statistic may be related to the serious traumas that veterans have suffered, receiving poor treatment or none at all. One-third of homicide victims killed by veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan were family members or girlfriends. Another 25 percent were fellow service members.

Jeffrey Toobin points out the difference between recent and past veterans:

“Earlier generations of veterans came home from war to ticker-tape parades, a generous G.I. Bill, and a growing economy that offered them a chance at upward mobility. Younger veterans returned to P.T.S.D., a relatively stagnant economy, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, and an epidemic of drug abuse. And they came home to a society where widening income inequality suggested the futility of their engagement with the contemporary world.”

Veterans also have a suicide rate 50 percent higher than those who didn’t serve in the military. Because the suicide rate is higher among veterans who didn’t deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq, the causes of suicide for the veteran population may not be limited to the trauma of war. Suicide among women veterans is much higher than men, almost six times the rate of other women. Suicide for women veterans ages 18 to 29 is 12 times the rate of nonveterans, and every other age group of women veterans is between four and eight times higher. In the general population, women tend to attempt suicide more often than men but use pills or methods other than guns. Female veterans, however, are more likely to have guns; 40% of female veterans use guns to commit suicide.

Veterans, like the elderly, disabled, and others on Social Security, won’t receive a cost of living this coming year, for the third time since 1975. In introducing the Seniors and Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act—a one-time increase of 3.9 percent or about $581—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) selected that percentage because it’s equal to the average annual increase in CEO pay at the top 350 U.S. companies. Taxpayers subsidize CEO pay packages because they are considered a business expense. Closing that loophole would pay for this increase veterans and Social Security payments while still leaving funding for the Social Security Trust Fund.

Tonight the GOP presidential candidates met to debate issues. Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) supports privatizing the VA health care system, removing government-connecting negotiating power for prices. He also “advocated for leniency in the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of Corinthian Colleges and its job placement claims” although Corinthian Colleges illegally used official military seals “in its advertising in an effort to recruit recently discharged service men and women” before abruptly shutting down “under the weight of regulatory and legal pressure.” The company was also accused of advertising programs that it didn’t offer and misrepresenting job placement rates to students and investors.

While governor of Florida, Jeb Bush tried to privatize health care for veterans, but the private company providing nursing and food services—a company that donated to Bush’s campaign—went into bankruptcy two years later. The facilities using the private companies provided substandard care and were ranked in the bottom 20 percent of facilities in the county. Records showed that nine out of ten patients did not receive proper care.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson wants to do away with the VA and put their care into facilities for the general population. Although not all VA-enrolled veterans seek health care during a given year, the U.S. had 9,111,955 VA-enrolled Veterans in 2014, a number equivalent to the combined populations of Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and both Dakotas.

Back in 1998, Sen.Lindsey Graham (SC) lied about seeing action while in the military when he claimed to be “an Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran although he never got closer to the war than McEntire Air National Guard Base near Columbia where he was a military lawyer.” Later he said that he “didn’t mean to mislead people.” His job while in South Carolina was to make wills for soldiers sent to the Gulf War.

Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), and Rubio voted against spousal benefits for legally married same-gender spouses of veterans. The amendment would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to ensuring all legally married same-sex spouses have equal access to the Social Security and veterans benefits they have earned and receive equal treatment under the law pursuant to the Constitution of the United States.” It passed without the votes from the GOP presidential candidates.

In opposing giving veterans access to affordable housing, Paul was also one of 11 senators who voted against considering a bill that would “provide $142 billion in fiscal 2012 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction, military housing and related operations. The bill also includes $52.5 billion in advance fiscal 2013 appropriations for VA medical programs.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill to set aside 3 percent of all state contracts for veteran-owned businesses. President Obama signed the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act this past summer, but Christie refused to hire them for state projects. During the debate, Christie said, “Hillary Clinton doesn’t respect [veterans] service.

Candidates in the debate were eager to create more crisis situations in the Middle East which would force more death and disaster for military members, but they did not go beyond empty words in helping them. Last spring, 41 Senate Republicans voted against a measure that would have expanded education and health care, including 27 new medical facilities, for veterans. The bill proposed the guarantee of in-state tuition rates at all public universities for post-9/11 veterans. Conservatives are ready to cause wars but reluctant to care for the “collateral damage” of their decisions.

In a recent poll, two-thirds of the surveyed veterans opposed privatization of VA health care. In addition, 57 percent of them said that this issue would determine the presidential candidate that they choose. The GOP presidential candidates might want to take notice.

October 11, 2015

State May Be Separating from Church

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 30, 2015 file photo, the Ten Commandments Monument is pictured at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s June 30 decision to order the monument removed from the state Capitol grounds has so angered conservatives in the Legislature that some Republicans are calling for justices to be impeached. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

In another failure for Oklahoma conservatives, after they didn’t execute Richard Glossip at the end of September, is the removal of a one-ton granite monument with the text of the bible’s Ten Commandments. Afraid that protesters would obstruct their actions, a “large Oklahoma Highway Patrol presence” guarded the workers late at night. The behemoth isn’t gone; it’s just moved a few blocks away where it doesn’t violate Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution mandating that public property can’t be used to benefit or support any “sect, church, denomination, or system of religion,” either directly or indirectly. Gov. Mary Fallin has asked voters to amend the state constitution so that the monument can return to the capitol grounds. Oklahomans might want to note the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” when considering future state executions.

 

Teaching evolution in public schools does not violate the First Amendment, a federal district court has reaffirmed. Kenneth Smith of Harpers Ferry (WV) had filed suit, stating that his religious freedom rights were violated because his daughter learns about evolution in public school. She plans to be a veterinarian, and her father claims that evolution is teaching her “a faith base (evolutionary ideology) that just doesn’t exist.” Judge Gina M.Groh ruled that he couldn’t prove that state agencies had committed any wrongdoing. Last year, the creationist group Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) sued to stop the state of Kansas from implementing new science education standards that included the teaching of evolution. COPE argued that by teaching evolution, public schools had effectively endorsed atheism as a religious viewpoint. They lost too.

Forced to find money elsewhere after her older brother’s sexual crimes, Jill (Duggar) Dillard, of 19 Kids and Counting, decided to collect money with her husband,Derick Dillard, for a mission to El Salvador. Disillusioned fans after the experience seemed to be more a vacation than actual work were  right: the Dillards had applied for missionary status to the Southern Baptist Convention that decided the couple lacked enough education. Fortunately for them, they still have the money from the “Dillard Family Ministries,” a tax-exempt religious organization that keeps them from having to declare how much money they have or where it is.

This tax-exempt status of religious groups may someday run into legal trouble. Pope Francis has already taken potshots at churches that “worship the God of money” instead of helping the sick and the poor as Jesus commands. Televangelists and preachers who run their “churches” like businesses or political organizations may want to take notice. As in the U.S., Italian churches act as umbrellas for its property and businesses to avoid taxation. Religious groups operate churches as hotels and still don’t pay taxes. One famous example of tax dodging in the U.S. is John Hagee, who reorganized his TV station in 2001 as a church to shelter tax records for his income of over $1 million. Hagee’s personally-owned 8,000 acre ranch is covered through the Cornerstone Church.

In one segment on his HBO show, John Oliver satirized U.S. churches and preachers such as Pat Robertson who run ponzi-like schemes in begging money in return for God’s favor. After the first episode of “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption,” the IRS was skewered for conducting only three audits of churches in 2013-14 and non for the four years before that. Any designated “church,” including the Church of Scientology, is tax exempt. Oliver didn’t reveal how much money he received, but the thousands of responses indicated quite of bit of loot. (Oliver gave all the donations to Doctors without Borders.)

john oliver

Luckily for the Duggar family, they are getting financial assistance from GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee through partnership in the sales of a political DVD series. The company markets the series with an initial “free” item, available for only shipping and processing. Ordering it automatically enrolls the “purchaser” into future sales. The “Learn Our History” series supposedly teaches “historical facts without bias” and American pride as the videos  “…recognize and celebrate faith, religion and the role of God in America’s founding…,” and “…correct the ‘blame America first’ attitude prevalent in today’s teaching.” We can assume that many tax-funded charter schools will be showing the videos.

Pope Francis seems to suffer from ambivalence when regarding LGBT people. Progressives praised him when he seemed to support LGBT families before they were disturbed with a supposed meeting with Rowan County (KY) clerk, Kim Davis, who had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. The Vatican explained that she was just part of a crowd, and the pope met for 20 minutes with a former student and his male partner while in the United States. Now The Vatican has fired Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa after he said he was proud to be a gay priest and in love with his boyfriend. Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombard, said that Charamsa could remain a priest but could not work at the Vatican.

Charamsa made his announcement just before the Vatican hosted bishops from around the world in a synod discussing families. The reports issued indicate confusion. One of the four groups spoke of a need to reach out to families while another claimed there is a need to point out the sins of current attitudes. Another question is whether the documents are to be distributed publicly or given to the pope as advice.

GOP presidential candidates take great pride in claiming their religious beliefs, but their anti-Christian positions may cause difficulties for them. In a townhall meeting, New Jersey Chris Christie was heard to provide too much information about his use of contraception with his wife. Concentrating on Christie’s sex life, the media failed to publicize the question that led to Christie’s humor. In his audience, a man had cited three biblical verses to argue that Christians should oppose foreign wars and support environmental conservation. Basically, the man was echoing the position of Pope Francis, who the GOP also opposes.

Purporting to be Christians, the GOP candidates oppose curbing global warming, raising the minimum wage, and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. Jeb Bush said, “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” and Rick Santorum accused the pope of not being a scientist although pontiff has a degree in chemistry. Marco Rubio said that protecting the economy might be more important than protecting the planet.

Both anti-marriage equality GOP candidates Rand Paul and Donald Trump are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, which supports same-gender marriage, and Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz use Christianity to oppose marriage equality and help for undocumented immigrants, a pathway that conservative Christian groups endorsed in 2013. Huckabee tried to work his way out of trouble at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) in April by emphasizing the need for border security. That was the day after the head of the NHCLC had said that “Republicans must cross the Jordan of immigration reform to step into the promised land of the Hispanic faith electorate.”

It’s a difficult time for conservatives in a changing landscape.

September 28, 2015

Looking for ‘Character’ in GOP Presidential Candidates

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 9:58 PM
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“One of the benefits of a presidential campaign is the character and capability, judgment and temperament of every single one of us is revealed over time and under pressure.” That was Carly Fiorina’s introduction to the second GOP presidential debate on September 16, illustrating the flaws in all the GOP candidates. Even the conservative Washington Post wrote that Fiorina “couldn’t just admit she made a mistake but instead doubled down and worsened the falsehood [about Planned Parenthood.” She insists on describing a scene in the highly doctored, false videotapes of Planned Parenthood that doesn’t exist and continues to digging her hole deeper while demanding a government shutdown. The last debacle, two years ago, cost $26 billion, but she was “not aware of any hardship to anyone, other than the veterans trying to get to the World War II memorial.”

In an increasingly strident voice, Fiorina delivers graphic details about abortions from these fabricated videos debunked even by the Fox network. By now, Fiorina and other GOP presidential candidates claim that women are deliberately having abortions to “harvest their brains and other body parts.” Marco Rubio goes so far as to say that women deliberately get pregnant to make money from having abortions. He said that women “look forward to” getting abortions. Fiorina also lies about taxpayers paying for abortions. The Hyde Amendment forbids it, and every state investigating Planned Parenthood has found that government money doesn’t finance abortions. The question is what happens to Fiorina’s popularity when voters discover that she chaired Good360, a charity that gave $18,022 in goods to The Abortion Access Network of Arizona.

Lying about her business record also keeps getting Fiorina into trouble. She claims that she doubled Hewlett-Packard’s revenue, but that’s only because she merged with Compaq which HP dumped in a few years as a failed company. She claimed that she tripled the number of patents per day, but that also came from the merger. HP doubled the number of patents after she left. The public announcement that she was fired caused HP’s stock to go up six percent the next day, adding $3 billion in value to the company. Before she left, however, she artificially inflated HP stock illegally during a tax holiday bill with profits funneled to Fiorina and shareholders. Her mishandling of the company caused 30,000 employees to be laid off—although she tried to claim that they just moved to Texas because it had a better business climate. Fiorina’s layoff, however, gave her a $21 million severance package.

Jeb Bush stays out of the abortion debate but gets in trouble with his tax plan, something that even Fox calls “voodoo economics.” With Bush’s plan, the rich get richer and the poor stay poor, as shown by Bush personally gaining at least $3 million with his plan. Chris Wallace pointed out that “four conservative economists … said that [Jeb’s plan] would increase the deficit between 1 and 3 trillion dollars over the next ten years.” The top 1 percent would get an after-tax increase of 11.6 percent in their income. Bush also assured his mostly-white audience in South Carolina that he wouldn’t be giving black people any “free stuff.” He seems to be emulating Donald Trump’s success in bigotry:  while campaigning in Iowa, Bush said, “We should not have a multicultural society.”

Bush argues that his tax plan helps the economy in the same way that his brother’s two massive tax breaks did. Yet the Bush/Cheney era averaged about 1.6 percent in economic growth, slower than President Obama’s post-recession era and much slower than during the Clinton era.

Donald Trump joined the tax-cut bandwagon with his plan to give $3.48 billion to his children in estate taxes. He said that the hedge fund managers are “getting away with murder,” but he would reduce their tax rate from 23.8 percent to 15 percent. Trump’s plan would cost the country $1 trillion every year for the next ten years while Bush only adds $340 billion to the deficit each year.

While Trump rants, Ben Carson’s speech patterns are guaranteed to put people asleep while he spreads his bigotry. Jake Tapper grilled Carson about his position that a Muslim shouldn’t be president if that person practices the Islamic religion, but Carson continued to claim that the constitution doesn’t fit Islamism. Carson escaped when a disembodied voice stated, “This interview is over.” and Carson was gone. Fox’s conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer called Carson’s religious bigotry “morally outrageous”:

“His reason is that Islam is incompatible with the Constitution. On the contrary. Carson is incompatible with a Constitution…”

The extremely conservative Values Voter Summit seems to bring out the worst in people, and Ted Cruz is no exception. He promised to not only rip up the Iran agreement but also kill Iran’s agreements. The speech brought standing ovations and won him the Summit for presidential candidate for the third year in a row.

Tear up the Iran agreement? That’s what most of the GOP presidential candidates are promising if they are elected. While in the United States recently, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani commented that several of the candidates don’t even know where Iran is. He then compared the GOP threats to another Middle East leader: “This is something that only the likes of Saddam Hussein would do.”

Scott Walker is gone from the GOP list because God told him to lead by resigning, Jim Gilmore is running but not campaigning, and three more candidates—Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rand Paul—are on the chopping block. The GOP will never vote for Pataki because he claims that climate change is scientifically proven. That leaves an even dozen to spread their lies at the October 28 debate and show us their “character.”

Here is the yesterday’s average of 171 polls from 30 pollsters, a great site to follow:

 

  • Donald Trump                    26.9%
  • Ben Carson                         16.6%
  • Jeb Bush                              8.7%
  • Carly Fiorina                       8.7%
  • Marco Rubio                        7.6%
  • Ted Cruz                              5.8%
  • Chris Christie                      3.4%
  • John Kasich                         3.0%
  • Rand Paul                            2.7%
  • Mike Huckabee                   2.6%
  • Rick Santorum                   0.7%
  • Bobby Jindal                       0.5%
  • George Pataki                     0.4%
  • Lindsey Graham                 0.2%

 

 

August 12, 2015

Only Trump Supports Women in Planned Parenthood Debacle

All the problems in the United States come from a lack of Christian belief, according to GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who promises that he will create Christian dominion over the entire country. In an interview with American Family Association leader Tim Wildmon, Cruz said,

“Nothing is more important in the next 18 months than that the body of Christ rise up and that Christians stand up, that pastors stand up and lead.”

As U.S. president, Cruz would fight the nonexistent religious persecution and seek criminal charges against Planned Parenthood. Cruz’s ad to prosecute Planned Parenthood begins with this pitch:

“For a century, Americans have helped heal and care for millions in need. Our values propelled extraordinary innovation. America made the world better.”

Visuals in the beginning of the ad use images of polio victims, people who suffered from the dread disease before a poliovirus vaccine, using fetal kidney cell research, saves 550,000 lives every year. People are actually angry about the use of fetal tissue in research, but they use Planned Parenthood as a symbol of this. The public doesn’t want to think about the use of fetal tissue as an answer to exploring treatment and cures for health issues from vision loss to cancer. Not one person in Congress, including Cruz, has introduced legislation to ban this kind of research. All of the attackers are removing health care from lower-income people, both women and men, not dealing with the issue that has caused a series of inflammatory statement.

Of the 17 GOP candidates, 16 of them, including the one woman, are firmly united in opposing Planned Parenthood. Carly Fiorina said that Planned Parenthood should be “defunded immediate.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), oddly declared the winner of the first candidate debate although he fell to seventh place in the field, is trying to lead the attack with a new initiative on both social media and his campaign website. A large picture of a fluffy-white kitty cat is accompanied by the statement, “Watch this video and sign this petition if you know that a human life won’t become a donkey or a cat.”

rubio's catRubio’s brilliant (at least to himself) idea came from an interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN after the debate when he began to insist that “science” has declared that human life begins at conception. In reality, biologists maintain that life is continuous and that a fertilized egg has the same level of life as a sperm or an unfertilized egg. Conservative men such as Mike Huckabee so fond of “personhood” might want to consider this science the next time that they masturbate. Cuomo tried to explain the facts of life to Rubio, who kept his own irrational viewpoint:

“[The fertilized egg] cannot turn into an animal. It can’t turn into a donkey. The only thing that that can become is a human being…. If scientists] can’t say it will be human life, what does it become, then? Could it become a cat?”

Pro-choice advocates don’t believe that a human egg can become a cat. The accurate description of the belief is that a difference exists between people and fertilized human eggs just as there is a difference between acorns and trees—and between eggs and chickens.

The one candidate who separated himself from the crowd in defunding Planned Parenthood is—surprise—Donald Trump. Although the businessman still opposes abortions, he explained to Sean Hannity that Planned Parenthood does “good things that aren’t having to do with abortion.” He also talked about “many Republican conservative women [who] come up and say Planned Parenthood serves a good function other than the one aspect. We have to help women.” Hannity wasn’t happy with Trump, but Fox president, Roger Ailes, wants the network to go easy on Trump.

The rest of the candidates know that they have to oppose abortion—and therefore Planned Parenthood—to have any chance of being elected. Seventy years ago, Jeb Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. In 1950, however, he narrowly lost a run for U.S. senator after a newspaper publicized his connection to the “Birth Control Society.” Twenty years later, Prescott Bush’s son, George H.W. Bush, championed family planning as an important backer of Title X, the program which helps Planned Parenthood get millions of federal dollars every year. GOP President Richard Nixon signed the legislation that passed with a bipartisan vote. H.W. Bush went on to support population control and family planning services around the world. Conservatives forced him, however, to follow the GOP’s anti-abortion position, and by 1989, he eliminated funding for the U.N. program that he supported ten years earlier. Jeb Bush knows that he can’t get elected with support for the evangelicals, and that means he has to be strongly against women’s reproductive rights.

The worst STD rates are in the United States are in Georgia. State legislators have decided to make the rates worse by stopping STD testing kits to Planned Parenthood. State school law mandates abstinence training in sex education with no information about safe sex. Georgia pharmacists can legally deny filling prescriptions for birth control for “religious” reasons. Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal has kept 600,000 people in his state from getting health insurance. At the same time, he is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars investigating Planned Parenthood despite all the other investigations that have proved that Planned Parenthood has not broken the law. In Texas, the state with the highest rate of uninsured people of any state, Planned Parenthood cannot afford to offer cancer screenings because of state defunding.

The United States has organizations dedicated to shutting down Planned Parenthood. The sole purpose of some legislators is to make abortion and birth control illegal. For example, a new bill in Wisconsin would lower birth control reimbursement rates for safety net providers serving low-income women to a level that could shut most or all of these health centers down. When GOP presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker defunded Planned Parenthood, he shut down five of the mostly rural health centers that didn’t perform abortions but did screen for cervical and breast cancer. In 2013, 25 percent fewer women have access to a woman’s health center in Wisconsin than in 2010 when Walker became governor. State laws prevent the use of public funds for abortion services, but states want to deny federal family planning funds to providers, including Planned Parenthood.

A leader in stopping Planned Parenthood, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is supported by the wealthy Koch brothers. This is a group that provides state legislators with ready-made conservative legislation. ALEC pretends not to address social issues such as abortion, but national anti-choice groups exhibited model policies and rubber fetuses at the recent ALEC convention. They share the same funding sources and goals—electing Republicans to carry out the extremist conservative agenda.

Debate moderators need to ask GOP presidential candidates why they are so determined to cause more pregnancies by stopping access to birth control. Candidates should also be asked why their position on “smaller government” doesn’t apply to women’s medical decisions, which legislators are determined to make for them. As studies show, the greater the access to contraception, the fewer unwanted pregnancies. Mike Huckabee talks about abortion demonstrating the moral depravity in the United States. This “depravity” would dissolve if Huckabee—and all his conservative colleagues—would help women from getting pregnant.

The good news is that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is warnng states that defunding Planned Parenthood may be illegal by restricting beneficiary access to services. State Medicaid programs are required to cover family-planning services and supplies for anyone of child-bearing age. Defunding agreements with Planned Parenthood would limit beneficiaries’ access to care and services from qualified providers of their choice.

A sixth video asserting wrong-doing on the part of Planned Parenthood has surfaced. Here is an explanation of how it was doctored to make watchers believe that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law.

August 10, 2015

Ignore Trump, Watch What the Other Candidates Do against Women

The media’s obsession with Donald Trump spread throughout the Sunday morning talk shows (formerly “news” shows). Chuck Todd spend half of Meet the Press on Trump and the other half with Marco Rubio and John Kasich (the second time in two weeks). When Todd asked both of them about Trump, Rubio refused to take the bait, but Kasich spent some more time on Trump.

RNC Reince Priebus cancelled his performance on one of these Sunday shows. He may have been embarrassed about trying to rig the GOP debates, eliminating one of MSNBC because he was afraid any stridency, and ending up with the fiasco last Thursday.

The debate highlighted Trump’s sexist attitudes and that his companies have declared bankruptcies. Litttle of the media points out is that most of the other GOP candidates are as, if not more, dismissive of women and beholden to billionaires with the same money ethics as Trump.

Erick Erickson disinvited Trump from an event for GOP presidential candidates in Atlanta, but Jeb Bush was there to pronounce Erickson “on the side of women.” Erickson called the first day of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, featuring women speakers, as the “Vagina Monologues.”

Trump was disinvited, according to Erickson, because he overstepped the line of “decency.” Erickson’s rhetoric has gone so far overboard that he called retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat f—ing child molester.” In 2013, Erickson told Kelly that women are scientifically inferior to men, and “women as primary breadwinners does make raising children harder, increasing the likelihood of harm in the development of children.” Other Erickson comments:

 

  • “Hillary Clinton “Is Going To Be Old” In 2016, “I Don’t Know How Far Back They Can Pull Her Face.”
  • (About NOW): “The NAG gang, as the godfather of radio Rush Limbaugh would call them, the National Association of Gals. They are the angry ones. Angry in their unibrows.”
  • (About the female CEO of IBM denied admittance to the Augusta National Golf Club): “Who cares that she wasn’t invited into the club? She’s a woman. Women aren’t allowed.”
  • “There is no reason” [for anyone to study women or Gender in college] unless they want to be a professional victim.”

After Erickson called Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis “Abortion Barbie,” Fox’s Greta Van Susteren called him a “creep” and a “repeat offender” with a “pattern of being disrespectful to women.”

Some of Bush’s ideas of his being “on the side of women”:

  • As former Florida governor, he tried to appoint a legal guardian for a fetus of a disabled woman who was raped in a state facility.
  • He has made derogatory comments about single women.
  • One of his laws was to shame unmarried women who chose to give their children up for adoption by requiring that personal information, including the names of all the woman’s sexual partners, be published in the media.
  • Bush said,  “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

After picking their candidates through questioning during the debate, Fox is now “editing” its transcripts to make Bush look more appealing to women. They don’t show the question that Kelly asked Bush about his membership on the board of the Bloomberg Family Foundation which donated $50 million to groups—including Planned Parenthood—to expand reproductive health services throughout the world. Fox has also not shown that piece in its clips on the debate.

Abortion is definitely shaping up as a major issue in the 2016 election as it did four years ago with attempts to define different “levels” of rape. Scott Walker answered a question about whether he would let a woman who needed an abortion die by saying it would never happen because of “alternatives.” Doctors disagree with him.

All Fox-approved GOP candidates must not support any abortions, and Marco Rubio has fallen in line with the mandate. In 2013, he agreed with an exception for rape or incest, but now he repeats the position that “all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws.” He talks about the usefulness of the “morning-after” medication although he supports restriction on women’s access to contraception. Like Walker, he thinks that no woman could die if she doesn’t get an abortion.

Ohio governor, John Kasich, is sometimes described as the most “moderate” of the candidates, but he mandated medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, to be paid for by the patient, before a woman may have an abortion in his state. He also put a gag rule on state-funded rape crisis centers, prohibiting them from discussing abortion options with victims.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee once said that it’s “a statistical reality that most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death.” (It isn’t.) He considers state support for birth control as the worst kind of government paternalism because women should be able to control their libidos without help. Huckabee believes in “personhood,” rights for fertilized eggs, using the “unborn child’s Fifth and 14th Amendment rights for due process and equal protection under the law.”

Rand Paul introduced a bill in 2013 supporting Huckabee’s belief that would have protected the rights of fertilized eggs under the 14th Amendment. In college, he and a friend kidnapped and blindfolded a female student and tried to force her to take hits off a bong. His record also includes sexist media about Hillary Clinton. According to Paul, “income inequality is due to some people working harder and selling more things.” He doesn’t mention women—none of them do—but he insinuates that women would make more money if they just worked harder. Paul, like Rubio, voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2012 and the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.

Ted Cruz also voted against the Violence Against Women Act and claims that oral contraception causes abortions. Not only trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he also has fought against the Act’s contraceptive mandate for free contraception in employees’ insurance for their workers.

While attacking Trump about his sexist remarks, Kelly neglected to ask Chris Christie about such comments to women who asked about jobs “going down”: “You know, something may be going down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.”

Carly Fiorina, the one woman in a field of 17 who is rapidly rising from the “second-tier,” opposes abortion and access for birth control. Like her male opponents, she opposes raising the minimum wage, important for more women than men.

The GOP candidates have avoided talking about women whenever discussing pregnancy. Five of the candidates are U.S. senators who work to block all abortions past 20 weeks but mention only the fetus. They pretend that women don’t exist. The candidates also ignore voting rights—or lack of rights—that disproportionately affects women, income equality with men on the top, health care—except to eliminate health care for the poor and women, etc.

The GOP candidates are far more dangerous to women than Donald Trump because they try to hide their disgust for women’s rights by professing to love fetuses. How successful they are with 53 percent of the population will become clear in the next 15 months. As the “autopsy” of the 2012 election stated:

“Republicans would need to be more inclusive of women, be more tolerant on gay rights to gain favor with young voters, support comprehensive immigration reform to appeal to Latinos and stand strong against ‘corporate malfeasance.’”

In the first debate, GOP candidates failed on the first three and were only concerned about the possibility of Donald Trump’s “corporate malfeasance.”

Presidential candidates have not received a majority of women voters since 1988 when George H.W. Bush brought in just 51 percent of the female vote. Overall, women have had a higher voter turnout than men in every presidential election for 35 years.

In her dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood segregates society by class and gender with social status determined by fertility and sexual productivity. In the Republic of Gilead, “aunts” join to oppress other women. Men are in control, women are chattel, and abortion is banned. This is the dream of the GOP presidential candidates.

While the media is paying attention to what Donald Trump says about women, the rest of the country should pay attention to what the remaining 16 candidates do against women.

August 9, 2015

Craziness, Hypocrisy in Christian Land

courser affairMy #1 craziest “religious” story is about Michigan state Rep. Todd Courser (R), 43, who advocated for a complete ban on abortion and attacked the LGBT community for its “gay agenda.” In between his rants, he had an affair with colleague Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R), 42. In May, when he was leading the charge against same-gender marriage, the couple’s sex scandal was also on the verge of being exposed. (Here’s where it gets crazy.)

To protect his “Judeo-Christian values,” he told his staffer, 25-year-old Ben Graham, to send a mass email across the state from an anonymous person explaining that Courser had been “caught behind a Lansing nightclub” having sex with a man. He figured that a “smear campaign” would blunt claims about his affair (“inoculate the herd,” according to Courser) and make that—as he said in a recording—“tame by comparison.” Asked if he wasn’t being dishonest, Courser said, “In a controlled burn, you do a little bit of truth mixed in with a lot of lies.”

After Graham refused to participate in the scam, Courser fired him and other staffers because they also wouldn’t participate in the cover-up. Republicans across the state still got copies a couple of days after Graham refused. It calls Gamrat “a tramp” and claims she “has covered” for courser “and her involvement is the real reason she was thrown out” of the House Republican caucus in April. The Detroit News covered the story in glorious detail.

Courser admitted that he was on the recording but claimed that it was illegal. He was in his taxpayer-paid office with a taxpayer-paid staffer, maybe like Nixon’s White House tapes? A Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that participants in a conversation may record a discussion without getting permission from other participants.

Tea Partiers keep tripping. Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-CO), who has a show called “Pray in Jesus’ Name,” hates gay men because he thinks they are all child molesters. He’s also friends with conservative activist David Dorty, who is a known and convicted child molester. Dorty has twice been convicted of sexually assaulting a child, once by a person in a position of trust, and is a registered sex offender in Woodland Park (CO).

Judge RogersWhether shooting at U.S. soldiers, killing people for not using a car signal, or threatening state officials, some Texans are not renown for their intelligence. Judge Randall Rogers of Smith County continues this tradition. He ruled that Josten Bundy,20, could avoid 15 days in jail for hitting a man in the jaw if he married his 19-year-old girlfriend, Elizabeth Jaynes, within 30 days and wrote down bible verses.

bundy jaynesTo keep his job, Bundy married Jaynes with little ceremony—no family members, no white dress, no tux, nothing that they had planned for their ceremony. Bundy had simply fought Jaynes’ ex-boyfriend after he said derogatory things to her.

Stupidity isn’t confined to Texas. An elected Michigan judge, Lisa Gorcyca, sentenced three children ages 14, 10, and 9 to juvenile detention until they graduate from high school because they wouldn’t have lunch with their father. After comparing them to Charles Manson’s cult for refusing to comply with her orders, she took them from their mother, separated them from each other in two separate detention centers, and barred the children’s mother from visiting.

judge three kids

Bad publicity and petitions may have caused her to dismiss the contempt charges after two weeks. The father works for GM and lives primarily  in Israel with his new wife and two-year-old son. The children wanted nothing to do with their father because they had seen him abuse their mother. Five years ago, an unsupervised visit between the children and the father ended when the children called 911 to report that their father “threatened to kill them while at the park.” The same year, Gorcyca denied the children’s mother a request for a personal protection order because of physical abuse and threats to kill the children. The judge told the children that their father was “a great man.”

Another government employee, a teacher at Forest Park Elementary School in Fort Wayne (IN), made life hell for a seven-year-old second-grader. A classmate had asked the boy if he went to church, and the boy explained his personal beliefs, adding that it was okay if the inquisitive classmate believed in God. She said that hurt her feelings and started to cry. After he told the classmate that he didn’t believe in God, teacher Michelle Meyer quizzed him about his religious beliefs and his parents’ beliefs before telling him that his mother would be very unhappy with him.

For punishment, the teacher made him eat lunch alone for three days and not talk to other children. The teacher threatened to tell the boy’s mother and sent the children to another adult who told the girl it was a good thing she had faith and shouldn’t listen to the boy’s “bad ideas.” After a call from the boy’s mother, the teacher and other participating adults told the boy that he could believe what he wants.

The situation is still not settled. No one has apologized the the boy or his family, and the school has not taken any action. The boy was afraid to go to school and came home every day crying because he thinks that everyone there hates him. The boy’s mother has filed a lawsuit, but school will never be the same for the boy because a teacher chose to lecture him about his beliefs.

Rowan County (KY) elected clerk Kim Davis is suing Gov. Steve Beshear for telling her to do her job by serving all citizens equally. Davis, who has been married four times, is being sued by two same-sex couples for refusing to issue and sign marriage licenses for them. Davis would be better off living in Alabama where Win Johnson, a lawyer who works for the state’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, wrote a long letter, including this:

“Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous.”

Os Hillman, a Dominionist, explains where Donald Trump is getting some of his supporters: Those who want to know where Donald Trump is getting his supporters might want to read what Os Hillman, a Dominionist, has to say about how God is using Trump to spread His message:

“I believe part of this is that God is using [Trump] to uncover the veil of the current political leadership and culture in America to show us the corrupt nature of what is under that veil. He is espousing a new way of operating because he is sounding a trumpet to the nation that our nation is broken and needs to be fixed. He is becoming a new prophetic voice…”

In Oregon, Coty Richardson is suing Eugene’s Northwest Christian University for firing her from her assistant professor position because she is pregnant but not married. Part of her suit states that men have continued teaching at the school although they lived with unmarried partners and fathered children in the relationships. In a recent letter to the editor, Gary Crum gives his perspective on the firing:

“NCU should ‘hold the line’ for abstinence! They should get Sarah and Bristol Palin to come to campus and give a presentation on ‘abstinence, God’s way to birth control.’ They should have physicians give examinations for ‘intact hymens’ to all the unmarried female staff and all unmarried female students. Those who fail should be immediately fired or expelled! Unmarried male faculty and unmarried male students should be required to take supervised doses of saltpeter every morning just before morning chapel. The problem of ‘loose morals’ can be solved if NCU just has the fortitude to enforce these simple rules.”

It’s Sunday, three days after the debate, and some GOP presidential candidates finally got enough courage to criticize Trump for his sexist remarks. The polls show that Fox’s tactics to get rid of Trump and preserve its favorites failed–at least the first time around. Five Fox-supported candidates went down in the polls, and Trump picked up an additional point, putting him ten points above his nearest competitor, Ted Cruz. The clear winner of the debate was Carly Fiorina, now moved up to the top ten and tied for fifth with Marco Rubio. Chris Christie is now firmly in the bottom seven, and John Kasick is still tied with Rick Perry for tenth.

They all have less than eight weeks to practice for the next debate on September 16, but this one is moderated by CNN, conservative but not rabidly so as Fox proves itself to be. It’s crazy in GOP and Christian Land.

June 15, 2015

Jeb for President? Part I

The big day has arrived! Everyone knew that former Florida governor Jeb Bush wouldn’t be dashing around the country and coordinating with his Super PAC—something he can’t do after he declares his candidacy—unless he was running for president. Millions of dollars later and on the verge, some people say over the edge, of breaking the law in his campaigning, he’s a bona fide candidate. Here’s what the United States would get with Bush III, as he explains his positions in an opportunistic, passive-aggressive way.

Former Florida Governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Former Florida Governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 17, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Bush’s Christian belief will guide his governing. That includes supporting the so-called “religious freedom” that merges church and state in laws and courts.

Unmarried women with children should be publicly shamed, according to Bush’s 1995 book, Profiles in Character. Six years later, he allowed a state law mandating that women be forced to publicize their names, physical descriptions, and sexual histories if they put up their children for adoption. The courts, who Bush hates, struck down the unconstitutional law, and it was repealed in 2003.  On the campaign trail, Bush said that he’s only “evolved” on the issue in thinking that “dads” should have a responsibility—nothing about withdrawing his earlier statement.

To make himself more presentable to the vast majority of voters in the United States, Bush does address income equality, which he calls the “opportunity gap.” But his defining statement is that any law that “subtracts from [economic] growth” should not even be discussed.

A speaker for the secretive Coal & Investment Leadership Forum a few weeks ago, Bush wooed the CEOs of six coal companies and their guests. The group has spent more than $17.4 million on campaigns and lobbying since the last presidential election. How much for Bush, no one knows for sure, because he concealed donor names by waiting a long time to declare his candidacy.

In New Hampshire, Bush said that the science is not clear on how much of climate change is “man-made” and “for people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant.” In Connecticut, he called on immediate action for climate change because “climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.” In foreign policy, the United States should encourage countries with higher carbon emissions rates to reduce them but added that fracking and new drilling technologies is decreasing U.S. carbon emissions. The word “arrogance” disappeared in his next trip to New Hampshire.

Bush got more media coverage than he wanted in early May when he changed his position four times after a question about whether he would have started the Iraq War if he knew then what is known now—that there are no WMDs. First, he said “I would have,” then he said that he misunderstood the question before following up with his not hearing the question correctly. Bush finished up the debate with himself by saying that he would not have gone into Iraq. A year after the war when no one found WMDs, the then-governor of Florida praised the war effort and later described it as a noble mission. By 2013, he was still supporting the war, saying that the public would change its mind about thinking that war was a mistake.

A 19-year-old political science student in Nevada engaged Bush after Bush blamed President Obama for the rise of ISIS. Ivy Ziedrich described the reason for ISIS and said, “Your brother created ISIS.” Bush accused Ziedrich of re-writing history, but that’s what he was doing. The United States pulled back in Iraq because of George W. Bush’s Status of Forces Agreement. ISIS is an outgrowth of Al Qaeda which expanded because of the Bush/Cheney administration’s chaotic U.S. invasion of Iraq. Jeb’s solution is deploying thousands of additional U.S. troops to Iraq in another war.

Bush demonstrated his need for war in the obligatory Europe tour for serious presidential candidates when he addressed Vladimir Putin’s refusal to back off in Ukraine. George W. Bush always liked “Poot Poot,” as he called Putin, because he looked into the Russian leader’s eyes and saw his soul. When asked about Dubya’s mistake, Jeb Bush said, “I think Putin has changed.” Only last year, the Fox network, Republican leaders, and evangelical Christians thought Putin was a better leader than Presidential Obama. Now Bush wants more “robust” training exercises in Ukraine.

After the disastrous week of flip-flopping on his brother’s Iraq War, Bush tried to explain that his new wrist watch would make the Affordable Care Act redundant. His position on ACA is replacement with a “consumer-driven” system, a popular term with no substance. His vision surrounding his new Apple Watch:

“On this device in five years will be applications that will allow me to manage my health care in ways that five years ago were not even possible. I’ll have the ability, someone will, you know, because of my blood sugar, there’ll be a wireless, there’ll be, someone will send me a signal. It’ll come here, I’ll get a double beep saying, ‘You just ate a butterscotch sundae’ or something like that. ‘You went way over the top. You’re a diabetic, you can’t do that,’ whatever.

“We’ll be able to guide our own health care decisions in a way that will make us healthy. And ultimately, we have to get to a health system, away from a disease system.”

Even if everyone in the United States could afford the expensive Apple Watch, the device will be reduced to saying “you need medical attention” if a person suffers from a broken leg or a genetic disorder. That medical attention will require health coverage to be affordable. Cancer needs chemotherapy, not a watch. Heart disease requires a cardiologist, not a watch.

Bush does know that his Apple Watch won’t help people with Alzheimers. He wants to cut domestic spending in almost all other areas but calls for increased funding to find a cure for Alzheimers and speed up the approval process for medications to treat the disorder. Tampa Bay Times’ Adam C. Smith noted that Florida state lawmakers in both parties “recall Bush vetoing their budget items targeting Alzheimer’s research and care while at the same time approving tax cuts often mainly for the benefit of specific businesses or wealthier Floridians.” Then Bush called the Alzheimer measures a “want,” not a “need.” His “evolution” may come from his mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Asked about his favorite author, Bush cited Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve which declares that Blacks have a lower intelligence level than Whites. Murray’s newest book, By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, calls for dismantling the United States regulatory and welfare programs because of the culture of laziness “in our inner cities in particular.”

Murray proposes a legal defense fund started by “just one wealthy American” to give wealthy people veto power over much of U.S. law. His recommendations would erase the minimum wage, overtime laws, most environmental protections and financial reforms, many worker safety laws, and anti-discrimination laws.

Bush was supposed to be the smart one, yet he’s having trouble demonstrating that characteristic. He can’t speak coherently about Iraq, thinks his Apple Watch is part of an anti-Obamacare vision, isn’t up to speed on immigration policy, and believes people who believe in climate science are “arrogant.”

Because Bush is so weak on foreign policy, he needs advisors—and they show poor choices. His top adviser on US-Israeli policy is George W. Bush. Of the 21 foreign policy advisors he listed, 17 served in the George W. Bush administration including the top policy architect of the Iraq War, Paul Wolfowitz.

Before Wolfowitz became the cheerleader for the Iraq War, he promoted the theory that Saddam Hussein, not Islamic extremists such as Al Qaeda, was responsible for the world’s anti-United States terrorism. The theory started over a decade before the U.S. declared war on Iraq and included blaming Saddam for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the attack on the USS Cole off the Yemen coast. Wolfowitz, top Pentagon official for Bush I, contributed to a book on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing called Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War against America. He was also a prime advocate for Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile leader, who pushed the false information on Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction onto U.S. leadership.

Wolfowitz disagreed with the testimony of General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, that it would take “several hundred thousand soldiers” to occupy Iraq; discounted the possibility of sectarian violence in Iraq following the invasion; insisted that Iraq’s oil revenues would finance post-war reconstruction; and declared that he was “reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators.” All these claims were false. Now he’s advising another Bush about global conspiracies.

That’s the tip of the Jeb iceberg. Part II tomorrow.

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