Nel's New Day

March 17, 2017

DDT: Week Eight – Embarrassment

The Rachel Maddow Show dropped a shiny object drawing attention away from Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) disastrous Trumpcare plan earlier this week in a special on the two pages of 2005 income taxes that had mysteriously been left in the mailbox of David Cay Johnston. People poo-pooed that the information would appear this way, but he theorized that DDT might have been responsible for the release. The copies definitely state “Client Copy,” meaning that it could come from only Melania Trump or DDT. Within a day, many pundits are agreeing that DDT had cherry-picked this one year and that he had a prepared faux outraged response. Fake outrage?

This tax return shows that DDT paid $36.3 million in income tax on his $153 million income for that year, the vast majority of taxes coming from the tax code alternative minimum tax (AMT). That law dates back to 1969 because 155 people making more than $200,000 paid no income tax for the prior three years and requiring eligible taxpayers to calculate their taxes in two ways—regular income tax and taxes under AMT—and pay the higher amount. With the AMT, DDT owed the government 25 percent, or $31 million; without the AMT he would have paid $5 million of the $150 million, less than 3.5 percent which is less than the half of taxpayers who make under $33,000 are required to pay. DDT’s tax plan calls from complete elimination of the AMT which would reduce government revenue $412.8 billion in the first decade and another $700 billion in the next. More than 60 percent of people who make between $500,000 and $1 million pay the AMT, compared to the two percent who make under $200,000.

Muslim ban: The day before DDT’s new travel order (Muslim Ban 2.0) was scheduled to go into effect, three hearings in Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington state challenged its constitutionality. A Hawaii judge put a restraining order for the entire country on the order; DDT said that he couldn’t speak ill of the judge to avoid being criticized by the “fake news.” U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson said that parts of DDT’s new order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and referred to the “illogic of the Government’s contention” that it discriminates for only a “small fraction” of the 50 predominantly Islam nations. At a rally in Nashville (TN), DDT called his second order “a watered-down version of the first,” giving even more argument to overturning it—just like the comment from Stephen miller, senior White House advisor, that the second order would have the “same basic policy outcome.” A federal appeal would go to the 9th Circuit Court where DDT’s first order was rejected. A Maryland court largely agreed with Hawaii. The Third Circuit also prevented the deportation of an Afghan man granted a special visa for helping the U.S. in that country at great personal risk. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told DDT to ignore the court orders.

Sales Pitch for Dirtier American Cars: Following the pattern of hiring coal miners to attend DDT’s rallies during his campaign, employers paid autoworkers to attend DDT’s speech this week, some even bused to the event at which DDT announced the end of fuel efficiency standards. There is no evidence that his executive order will increase cars; in fact, it may make them less salable in other countries. Consumers will pay $98 billion more, even after higher vehicle cost, mostly from greater fuel use. DDT moved on to Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage in Nashville (TN) where most of the media ignored the 15,000 people protesting him.

DDT Budget: His first budget proposal, called “skinny” because like DDT’s other proposals it is short on detail, does, however, prove past assumptions on DDT’s priorities—more military/business and less everything else. The GOP Congress didn’t like it, but they pointed out that it had little hope of survival with them. In addition to this information, the budget also cuts Amtrak, reduces funding for the IRS, closes small airports in Alabama and Mississippi, and cuts money for the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), FEMA, etc.   [visual – Budget priorities]

DDT’s Wiretapping Claims: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner issued a statement that they have no evidence supporting DDT’s wiretapping claims. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that DDT is sticking by his claims, however, and extended the false accusation to Obama’s use of the British spy agency GCHQ to surveil DDT. GCHQ called Spicer’s allegations “nonsense and “utterly ridiculous,” and both Spicer and national security advisor H.R. McMaster had to officially apologize to Britain for Spicer’s comment. Even US AG Jeff Sessions, DDT’s lapdog, said that the former president didn’t wiretap Trump Tower. For “proof” supporting DDT’s claims about the wiretapping, Spicer read comments from Fox’s Bret Baier and Sean Hannity and other media that reported inquiries into DDT’s campaign aides and Russian officials. Asked about the wiretapping on Fox, DDT either lied to Tucker Carlson on Fox or leaked classified information when he said that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s servers were hacked under President Obama.

DDT’s Russian Connection: In a Fox network poll, 66 percent of people in the U.S. think that Congress should investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, the same number who want lawmakers to probe possible connections between the DDT campaign and the Kremlin. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he doesn’t see any connection between the two although he also thinks that there is no support for DDT’s claim about being wiretapped. Ranking Dem on the committee Rep. Adam Schiff, who has the same classified information about the campaign’s links to Russia, disagreed and suggested that they be “very precise” when discussing the issue. U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee plans to hold hearings about a link between DDT’s campaign and Russia on March 30.  

DDT’s Deportations: In a new poll, almost two-thirds of people in the U.S. prefer a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants instead of deportations. The U.S. Conference of Mayors lambasted DDT’s deportations, and mayors in cities across the nation have described the importance of immigrants to the improvement of their economy, labor force, and stability.

Health Care Plan: In trying to bring ultra-conservatives into the fold of voters, DDT agreed to give states the option of imposing working requirements for Medicaid recipients and block grant Medicaid instead of the cap system in the bill. DDT thinks that he’ll get the votes from the far-right; far-right members of the House aren’t so sure. Polls show that people are more supportive of “Obamacare” than Trumpcare.

More Mentally Ill People with Guns: http://www.self.com/story/trump-gun-access-mental-health-social-security  Earlier this month DDT signed a bill overturning a regulation requiring people who receive Social Security money for mental illnesses and those who have been deemed unable to handle their own financial affairs to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Now the House passed a bill to allow some veterans deemed “mentally incompetent” to own firearms. VA are prohibited from submitting records of veterans with several mental illnesses to the federal criminal background check system because to do so would cause them to be “stigmatized and isolated.” The future of this bill in the Senate is uncertain. The same bill also makes it easier to fire people from the VA.

DDT’s Current Campaign Rallies: Yes, DDT is in the midst of his campaign for 2020 allowing him to again sell his campaign merchandise. Once again, he’s trying to see how far he can go and keep his supporters. For example, he told them at a rally that he knows Trumpcare is worse for his supporters than for anyone else.

DDT’s style is to cause chaos. His only skills, other than making some people believe his lies, are suing people, putting his name on other people’s buildings, and collecting cash after declaring bankruptcy—not useful in running a government. He plans to give the Pentagon more authority on terror raids after the wide-publicized abysmal failure of the Yemen raid. That way he can continue to blame the generals for any problems while taking credit for successes. It’s time that the GOP leaders figured that out.

Today DDT met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He refused her request for a handshake, called the U.S. “a company,” referred to a German press outlet as “fake news”(above), and repeated his lie about President Obama wiretapping his phones.  https://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/watch-angela-merkel-looks-in-horror-as-trump-accuses-german-reporter-of-being-fake-news/

And now DDT is gone to Mar-a-Lago for the sixth in seven weekends to lick his wounds and spend another $3.6 million of taxpayer money.

March 31, 2016

“Small Government” in Kentucky, Alabama

bevins hammerWhen GOP Matt Bevin ran for Kentucky’s governor, he promised to save the people by doing away from the dreaded “Obamacare” in the state. Republicans elected him, and he kept his promise. Under the former governor, the state’s health care, KYNECT, was a model for the country in its coverage for over 500,000 people.

Here is what happened with the Tea Party’s new state computer system:

  • Benefind—Bevin’s new system to replace KYNECT for—has shut people out of their online accounts or entirely eliminated their health coverage with no warning and no explanation.
  • Children have been cut off from Medicaid coverage.
  • People who visit overcrowded state offices where they are forced to wait hours—sometimes an entire day—to see anyone. Or they are forced to come back the next day after the computers crash.
  • The helpline is available only from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, limiting access for people who work those hours.
  • The recorded message sends people to a website which has many glitches, is hard to use, and provides no help for people without computers or Internet access.
  • People looking for help in public benefits now are forced to wait hours or days as they repeatedly call the helpline that gives them only a recorded message before hanging up.
  • People who can’t get coverage are cutting back on their medications and ending up in the hospitals’ emergency rooms multiple times.
  • Over 500 workers statewide trained to help people sign up for health coverage cannot access Benefind and thus cannot help people to apply for coverage or fix problems with their coverage.
  • People who formerly provided proof of citizenship can no longer get health coverage until they resubmit the documentation.

Bevin’s answer? On YouTube, he says, “I’m aware of and sensitive to your frustrations.”

Republicans who say that big government doesn’t work may be right—when they’re trying to operate it.

[Personal comment: Today I spent over two hours on the telephone with insurance companies and pharmacies on behalf of my partner. One of her medications cannot be generic; therefore she needs prior approval from her insurance company to pay for the brand medication. She has prior approval, but the insurance company will not send her anything in writing to prove it. Even after that, the cost of the medication with differs from $87 to $1500 for a ninety-day supply—with insurance.

I called three pharmacies multiple times to find the prices. All of them started out by stating that they couldn’t do that without the prescription although one of them said on the opening telephone message that it would give the prices of medications for Medicare. The cheapest pharmacy, gave three different prices on three different calls, but refused to give any written verification. It will take faxes for the prescription but won’t send a fax to request the prescription from the pharmacy that holds the prescription. That pharmacy will fax the prescription on but only after it is asked. Another prescription will require a doctor’s visit.

I’m retired—sort of—and have the time to make the calls during the daytime when these places are open. I’m also determined and willing to take on the problems of these calls. After a drastic increase in my blood pressure over the two hours, I can’t imagine the pain that people in Kentucky are now enduring—just because the GOP doesn’t like “big government” and probably people. Then there’s the issue of a different in almost $6,000 for a prescription from a local pharmacy and the “mail-in” part of a huge insurance company. These problems are something that could be changed by single-payer or universal health care, but it might violate our freedom. Big business loves our freedom because it gives them trillions of dollars.]

Did I mention that Republicans hate “big government”? Here’s a fine example of how they legislate it. Mississippi just passed the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” yet to be signed by GOP Gov. Phil Bryant, allowing discrimination against sex by anyone except a male/female couple after marriage. According to the language, an unmarried couple having sex in their personal bedroom is breaking the law if signed by Bryant.

In another Southern state, the big story out of Alabama less than two weeks ago showed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley governing the state by giving an 80 percent increase in salary to four cabinet members, an extra $73,405 each, after signing a bill banning all cities from raising the minimum wage—the federally mandated $7.25 an hour. These salary increases were the biggest, but dozens of other people—cabinet and staff members—also got sizeable raises.

Last August Bentley defunded Planned Parenthood in the state before a federal judge overturned his move. Taxpayers had to pay for the legal fees. Last December Bentley diverted funding from the 2010 BP oil spill recovery effort to renovate a second Governor’s mansion on the Gulf Coast. In January he took 45,000 people off food stamps if they weren’t supporting minor children. Each of these people had received only $194 a month.

bentleyThis month, however, things got very bad for Robert Bentley after it was revealed that he is having phone sex—and maybe more—with his top aide, Rebecah Mason, on “burner” phones bought at Best Buy. (To find details, just Google the situation.) Rumors have been swirling about his infidelities for quite a while, but they became much more open after his wife of 50 years filed for divorce. He first denied the accusations, despite the tapes played on the media, and then asked for forgiveness. Just for his infidelity and not for refusing poor women health care, causing people to go hungry, appropriating funds for his own personal use, and trying to block LGBT rights in the name of “family values.” Bentley supporters complain that the emphasis in the country shouldn’t be on sex—no problem as long as conservative laws don’t prioritize sex in their “big government” prohibitions.

Although some lawmakers talk about impeaching Bentley, he says he won’t quit. His former Baptist pastor talked about “church discipline” and said that Bentley is no longer a member of the Tuscaloosa congregation where he was once a deacon. The subject of Bentley’s desire has resigned, wanting to spend more time at home with her family, but her husband, state director of the state faith-based initiative office, remains at his job.

Mason’s company was paid over $328,000 during the past three years, more than his cabinet members before their 80 percent raise. She may have been received much more than this. Although Mason served as Bentley’s top aide, she didn’t have to file financial disclosure forms because she wasn’t designated as a state employee.

Alabama has trouble with politicians: a former governor is in prison for corruption, and the speaker of the State House of Representatives is to stand trial this year on 23 felony charges of ethics violations.

Bentley is using his position to investigate two men for blogging about his alleged affair with political adviser Rebekah Mason. He ordered the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find incriminating evidence against attorney Donald V. Watkins, and Legal Schnauzer blogger, Roger Shuler. Some people question whether Bentley broke any laws in his love fest, but Watkins claims investigations will find “wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering violations under federal law, among other charges …[in circumventing] public oversight, transparency and competitive bid laws by channeling millions of public dollars into entities like the Workforce Councils of Alabama and others legitimate agencies and then directing the recipient agency to execute vendor contracts with certain special friends and supporters.”

The U.S. House Freedom Caucus, each making an annual salary of $174,000, is working toward “small government”by not going to work. Despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s claim that the entire last year of the presidential term is a “lame-duck session,” the HFC understands that this time is only the approximately 75 days between the general election and the new president’s inauguration. Members hope to not go into session for this time, causing only 17 days in session after July 15 and  zero days after September 30. They have to wait until April 12 to do this because they aren’t in session.

Conservative House members have already killed the budget and the appropriations process for the year, and the government can’t operate after September 30 without a continuing resolution to maintain last year’s spending levels. HFC board member Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) described the lame-duck session as “a bunch of people who have already either quit, retired or been fired by their constituents decide they still want to vote on major stuff.” He admitted that quitting work that early this year wouldn’t look good for the legislators. He also said, “When you’re one of the people who tends to think most of what we do here is screwed up in the first place, then the less we do, maybe the better.”

That’s life in the world of conservatives who want “small government.”

November 4, 2015

Elections Advance Progressive Issues

Mainstream media articles today sent the message that progressives lost the country after yesterday’s election. Seventeen percent of voters in Kentucky picked a GOP governor for the first time since, a man who even the RNC was reluctant to support. Virginia kept a Republican legislature, and Houston kept trans people from being able to use the appropriate restroom for them. Almost 10,000 voters in Coos County (OR) decided that they could not obey gun laws that they don’t like. But across the country were pockets of successes for human rights.

 

  • Pennsylvania: In a highly expensive election, Democrats swept three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, giving them a five-to-two majority; previously, Republicans had controlled the bench three-to-two, with two vacancies. This majority will influence the next round of legislative redistricting because it picks the tiebreaking vote for the commission that draws maps for the state legislature. Republicans chose the tiebreaker last time, but the newly elected judges with ten-year terms will be there in 2021. Eliminating the gerrymandering from the past redistricting session could move the legislature to progressive instead of conservative.
  • Ohio: In another movement to stop gerrymandering, voters—by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent—passed a constitutional amendment to greatly reduce or even eliminate gerrymandering of state legislative districts in 2021. The state Senate had approved the measure by 28-1, and the state House of Representatives had voted in favor by 81-7. Ohio joins Virginia to be is one of the most gerrymandered states in the U.S. While Democratic candidates for the House got 55,000 more votes than GOP candidates, Republicans won 60 out of 99 seats. The GOP got 75 percent of the U.S. Representative seats despite getting only 57 percent of the vote in 2014.
  • Colorado: Voters decided to leave the taxes on cannabis with the state rather than collecting about $8 each. They made this decision despite advertising from the Tea Party (Teapublicans?) urging them to oppose the initiative that would take that money out of their pockets. The taxes go to public education, youth programs, and law enforcement.
  • Indianapolis (IN): Democrat Joe Hogsett defeated Republican Chuck Brewer 63-37 after the city had a GOP mayor for the past eight years.
  • Salt Lake City (UT): In this very red state, Democrat Jackie Biskupski unseated two-term Mayor Rich Becker (a fellow Democrat) by a 52-48 margin, making her the first openly gay mayor in Utah history.
  • Charlotte (NC): Democrat Jennifer Roberts squeaked out a 52-48 win over Republican Edwin Peacock to win the mayoralty in the state’s largest city, possibly slowing his political career. The city’s last GOP mayor, Pat McCrory, is now governor.
  • Mississippi: State Attorney General Jim Hood, the last Democrat holding statewide office in the Deep South, won a fourth term by a 56-44 spread. He has been a strong advocate for Hurricane Katrina victims still battling insurance companies. Democrats also took two of three seats on the Public Service Commission, the board that regulates utility companies. This may help keep the Mississippi Power Company from passing massive cost over-runs for a new $6.5 billion power plant to customers.
  • Maine: Voters expanded the state’s Clean Election Act by a 55-45 margin. The result is greater public funding for candidates, mandatory donor disclosure, and penalties for violators.
  • Seattle (WA): A wide margin passed the new campaign finance system to give each voter four $25 “democracy vouchers” every two years that they could then give as donations to candidates for city races like mayor and city council. Recipients will have to abide by additional caps on donations and spending as well as participating in at least three debates.
  • Tacoma (WA): Voters approved an $12 increase in the minimum wage over the next two years.
  • Elizabeth (NJ): The state’s fourth-largest city joined the three biggest ones to institute paid sick leave along with the states of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
  • Jefferson County (CO): Conservatives on the school board who tried to rewrite the AP U.S. history curriculum to “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” and “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system” lost their seats. In this case, the Koch brothers’ big cash infusion on the part of the losing school board members in the state’s second-largest school district was wasted.
  • New Jersey: Democrats picked up three more seats in the state Assembly, giving them the biggest majority in 36 years. Their governor, Chris Christie, is rapidly going done in the polls of presidential candidates.
  • Ohio: Voters successfully opposed the legalization of marijuana. Although this vote may not seem progressive, the constitutional amendment would have given all sales rights of the cannabis to just seven wealthy people. The state also voted to keep the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit as it would “prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status.” Although this sounds good, the Ohio Ballot Board determines whether this is the intent of an initiative. Right now that board is a 2-to-2 split between Republicans and Democrats with the GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted breaking any tie. That gives him sole power for the determination of what a “monopoly” might be. In future initiatives about legalizing marijuana, Husted could determine that 1,000 growers equal a monopoly.

Kentucky elected a GOP governor who plans to take health insurance from 400,000 state residents, but a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, may have changed the nation’s view on “religious liberty.” She claimed that being forced to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates her Freedom of Religion rights, but 56 percent of the people in the United States now think that she is wrong. According to this majority, government officials should put aside their religious beliefs when doing their jobs. Just last July after the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, 49 percent of the people thought that Davis was right; that number has been dropped by 14 percent to 41 percent. Among Republicans, that figure dropped from 72 percent to 58 percent, almost a 20 percent decrease.

As for the future of Kentucky, the people may need more than prayer. Under the two terms of Gov. Steve Beshear (D), Kentucky became a state with an unemployment rate at a 14-year low and a reduction of its uninsured by over 40 percent. When the newly elected governor, Matt Bevin, ran against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a year ago, Republicans called Bevin a “con man” who “pathologically” lies. He didn’t tell the truth about his educational background, and his business needed a taxpayer bailout. During his campaign, he also repeatedly lied about being delinquent on property taxes owed in Louisiana and on a Maine vacation home. He lied about giving a speech at an illegal cockfighting gathering. Caught in his lies, he created an “enemies list” of journalists who confronted his lying. Kim Davis’ Rowan County, however, didn’t vote for Bevin. [Photo: Bevin with Kim Davis and her husband, Joe, with Ted Cruz lurking in the background.]

Joe-Davis-matt-Bevin-Kim-Davis-Facebook-800x430

Bevin’s term will show how far he will go to hurt his constituency. If the governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, is any example, people of Kentucky are in for a rocky road.

August 5, 2015

GOP Wants Return to the 1950s

To conservatives, the 1950s were an ideal time. These quotes show who they’re working to return to a time when “men were men” and everyone except white men was subservient to them.

New Hamphire state Rep. Jeanne Notter to a colleague about oral contraceptives: “As a man, would it interest you to know that Dr. Bernstein just published an article that links the pill to prostate cancer?” She couldn’t explain why, but a study published this week in The Lancet Oncology responds to complaints about “Uncle Sugar” paying for pills for “sluts.” More than helping to reduce pregnancies in 88 percent of women, oral contraceptives help to prevent cancer by imitating pregnancy in the woman’s body. The less estrogen in the body, the lower the risk of uterine (endometrial) cancer. About 400,000 cases of this cancer have been prevented in the past 50 years—200,000 during the past decade alone. For every five years of using birth control pills, a woman reduces her risk of contracting endometrial cancer by about 25 percent. Only 42 percent of women take this medication only for contraception.

Matt Beyon, Rick Santorum’s communications manager on tomorrow’s GOP presidential debate: “The idea that they have left out the runner-up for the 2012 nomination, the former four-term governor of Texas, the governor of Louisiana, the first female Fortune 50 CEO, and the 3-term Senator from South Carolina due to polling seven months before a single vote is cast is preposterous.” The debate is even more preposterous because Fox changed its rules after looking at the polls, possibly because they wanted Gov. John Kasich rather than Rick Perry on the main stage. After all, the debate on Thursday is in Kasich’s state of Ohio. Fox declared that it would use the five most recent polls to determine the top ten candidates but then ignored an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted between July 26 and 30 showing Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Ohio Gov. John Kasich within one percentage point of each other. Instead Fox used a Quinnipiac University poll gathered between July 23 and 28 showing Kasich ahead by three percentage points. Fox claimed it dismissed the NBC/WSJ poll “because it did not meet our criterion that the poll read the names of each Republican candidate in the vote question.” The RNC has officially put Fox in charge of selecting the GOP candidate.

Last night on All In, Alex Wagner, substituting for host Chris Hayes, asking Ted Cruz’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, about the problem of the Fox debate: Tyler started by explaining the advantage of the “kiddie table” because “5:00 p.m. on the East Coast is 8:00 on the West Coast. And 9:00 start for the second debate is midnight on the West Coast. So, look, the 5:00—I think—you know, the network has done the best they could.” Wagner had to explain him that 5:00pm EST is actually three hours earlier—not later—at 2:00 pm that that the 9:00 pm main event would begin on the West Coast at 6:00. Then the Cruz spokesman extolled the virtues of Donald Trump.

The outline of the scientific study, “Historically unprecedented global glacier decline in the early 21st century” in The Journal of Glaciology: “Centennial glacier retreat is a global phenomenon.” One example of the rapid glaciers’ disappearance is the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland where the ice is moving at 10 miles a year, twice the record in 2003, which was twice as fast as in 1997. “The observed glaciers currently lose … two to three times more than the corresponding average of the 20th century,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Zemp. Glaciers help maintain the climate zone differences that drive weather patterns and provide distinct ecosystems to support precisely adapted lifeforms, from mountain wildflowers to snow leopards. Some glaciers may now be doomed.

New York pastor James David Manning: “Let’s just say I know [Starbucks is using semen in lattes].”  That’s what he said last year and repeated on a Daily Show segment with Jessica Williams last night when she re-interviewed him. Manning also ratcheted up last year’s comparison between President Obama to Adolf Hitler to this year’s statement that the president is the “Son of Satan.” Last month he described a “sodomite demon” contracted by women who kiss or have sex with men who have had sex with other men. According to Manning, the semen in gay sex goes directly into the blood.

A growing conservative movement against marriage equality: “What if a city decided that it was important for children to have mothers and fathers, declared itself a sanctuary city for traditional marriage, and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”

Jeb Bush on defunding Planned Parenthood: “You could take dollar for dollar. Although I am not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women health issues.” (Spoken like a true elitist!) When George H.W. Bush was elected to Congress from Texas, he so strongly supported Planned Parenthood that some House colleagues called him “Rubbers.”Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush was the first treasurer of Planned Parenthood when it was founded in 1947, yet Jeb defunded Planned Parenthood while he was Florida governor and wants to send women to “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” where they receive bad care and lies to keep them from having abortions. These centers also don’t provide health care for men; Planned Parenthood does.

Donald Trump: “We have to get rid of that whole gun-free zone nonsense and just stop it.” Managers at many Trump hotels, golf clubs, and other properties are gun-free zones; even people with concealed carry permits can’t bring their firearms onto the property. The Trump properties that do allow guns require concealed carry permits and do not allow any open carry. Gun shows also forbid guns on the premises. A person at the Crossroads Gun Show explained, “Safety is our Number One Priority, and a safe environment in the show can only be maintained if there are no loaded guns in the show.”

Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd: “We all have a responsibility here I think to say, you know, has [Donald Trump] earned his way on this stage? I mean, again, we’re four years removed from the ridiculous spectacle of birtherism…. It’s not fair to what is the strongest Republican party presidential field in 36 years.” Scott Walker is not removed from the question of whether President Obama is a Christian and bought off the Wisconsin state Supreme Court to skip his indictment, while Rick Perry is still under indictment. Sen. Ted Cruz is threatening a shutdown for Planned Parenthood’s legal behavior. Mike Huckabee is a huckster for bogus medical cures. Chris Christie yells shut up at teachers who try to reason with him. Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign leader just got indicted for conspiracy in falsifying campaign expenditure reports. And the list goes on.

rondesia-jarrett-schell-and-peter-schell-with-their-sonPolice Stop in the South: You have to read the entire dialog in this link to understand the abuse by racist law enforcement after a police officer pulled over Rev. Peter Schell, an Episcopal priest and the lead pastor of Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., for not signalling that he was pulling over for the officer. He was traveling with his interracial family (right).

Apple in 2013: “[The company] “powers all its data centers [in Maiden, NC] with 100 percent renewable energy” and has been “100% renewable since opening June 2010.” It wasn’t. In 2015, 76 percent of the data center’s energy was generated on-site by two photovoltaic solar arrays and its fleet of biogas-powered fuel cells, but it must turn the energy over to NC GreenPower and buy all its energy needs from Duke Energy Carolinas (Duke). By March 2015 Duke had less than 0.02 percent renewable energy in its grid mix. About 33 percent of the energy Duke sells comes from nuclear, half is from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), and 15 percent comes from hydroelectric sources. When Duke’s grid fails, Apple relies on backup diesel-powered generators from fuel stored on on-site tanks. Annual emissions from the Apple facility are on an upward trajectory, by now the equivalent of burning 262 million pounds of coal.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on defunding Planned Parenthood—my favorite: “Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s or 1890s?” Chris Christie may brag about “telling it like it is,” but Warren is far ahead of him:

“The Republican scheme to defund Planned Parenthood is not some sort of surprised response to a highly edited video. Nope! The Republican vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just one more piece of a deliberate, methodical, orchestrated, right-wing attack on women’s rights.”

Unfortunately, conservative men claim that they want to return to the 1950s. That’s their aim—no reproductive rights, no threat of climate change, no problem with being racist, and no “homosexuals.” A return might require them to give up some of their guns, though.

July 26, 2015

Hateful Religious Beliefs–and a Bit of Hope

Our country’s leaders used their religious perspectives to make the comments last week:

John Hagee: “Planned Parenthood … brings to mind the evil of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and Dr. Mengele.”

Mike Huckabee (in an African-American church about racial problems):  “We don’t have a skin problem in this country, we have a sin problem in this country.”

Mike Huckabee (on the Iranian deal): “This president’s foreign policy …  will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,”

Sam Rohrer (Pennsylvania State Representative 1992-2009): “Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church [are] the protectors of moral truth. The west and the United States have become the leaders of moral depravity.”

Pat Robertson (once presidential candidate): “Love affairs between men and animals are going to be absolutely permitted…. And it will be called a right.”

Pat Robertson (about criminalization of homosexuality): “Boy those Africans have got it right. One wishes that the president of the United States would listen to some of his fellow Africans, cousins, to what they have to say because they speak truth and they speak wisdom.”

David Brody, Chief Political Correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network (about why Donald Trump operates like Christians): “Donald Trump operates in a world of absolutes: A world of right and wrong; a world of winners and losers…. And what does Trump get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? Public ridicule.”

Randy Brogdon, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman: “The federal courts don’t have the authority to make us kill babies. Are the Supreme Court justices going to come down to Oklahoma and make us stop?”

How did GOP senators spend their Sunday today? They voted against health care. And they lost. They needed 60 votes and couldn’t even get a simple majority: the vote was 49-43 with eight senators not voting. All Republicans voted against health care except for five who did not vote at all: Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Pat Tommey (R-PA). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided to have a vote last week to shut up his party opposing the Export-Import Bank. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) thinks he can circumvent the 60-vote threshold by refilling the health care amendment as one connected to the highway funding bill. When the Senate chair rejects this premise, Lee would object, allowing a 51-vote majority to overturn the decision.

Before Lee’s ploy failed, presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) unsuccessfully tried to attach an amendment keeping sanctions on Iran until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist to the same highway bill. Even ultra-conservative Lamar Alexander (R-TN) worried about Cruz’s tactics, and the other Texas GOP senator, John Cornyn, called the strategy a “terrible mistake,” urging Republicans to vote against it. As he pointed out, voting on Cruz’s amendment would mean that “any senator who wants to get a vote on an amendment will be entitled to do so and that can’t be the rule.” John McCain said that if they were going to change the rules, which takes 67 votes, then they should have a debate.

Last week, Cruz had a temper tantrum on the floor of the Senate after 67 senators voted in favor of advancing the attachment of the Export-Import Bank to the necessary highway bill. When he called McConnell a liar, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) read aloud rules prohibiting attacks among chamber members on the Senate floor. John Thune (R-SD) said that Cruz’s idea would “make it impossible to get anything done in the Senate.” Evidently he doesn’t understand that this has been the Senate MO for quite a while.

Cruz and another presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have started using a term for their Islamphobia. In targeting Muslims, they both referred to “not Presbyterian” in a coded language that another religion, not extremist terrorists, is a problem. Nothing has been said about the far-right Christians who are trying to match ISIS in terrorism.

This weekend, Cruz will speak at a conference by the Center for Security Policy alone with other candidates Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Carly Fiorina, and Bobby Jindal. The director of this group, Frank Gaffney, has indicated that Obama is a Muslim and that the Muslim Brotherhood has supposedly taken over the U.S. government. Gaffney has support from Huckabee who said this year:

“Everything he [Obama] does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community.”

Former Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark suggested internment camps for radicalized Muslims. The camps would not be for people who committed crimes—just those who don’t hold Christian values. George W. Bush’s religious advisor, Franklin Graham, agreed with the camps for Muslims as well as an official ban to stop Muslims from immigrating.Muslims make up roughly one percent of the U.S. population, and Muslim Americans don’t ask for special favors. The building hatred, however, could return the United States to the dark days of Japanese internment camps 70 years ago.

In March, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg ordered Philadelphia’s transportation system to accept anti-Islamic hate ads on its buses. They feature a 1941 photo of Hitler meeting with an Arab leader and read: “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quaran.” The small print states, “Two-thirds of all U.S. aid goes to Islamic countries” and “End all aid to Islamic countries.” Israel, a Middle Eastern country, receives one-third of the foreign aid budget, and Islamic countries that receive aid, such as Egypt, are key contributors to Israel’s security. Egypt is a major aid in controlling the Palestinian people.

Pamela Geller’s group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), is behind the ads. Great Britain considers the organization a hate group and barred Geller from going into the country in 2013. In 2011, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refused to grant trademark status to Stop Islamization of America on the grounds that the name could be disparaging to American Muslims. The USPTO’s decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit a year ago. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) prohibits ads that disparage people or groups “on the basis of race, religious belief, age, sex, alienage, national origin, sickness, or disability.”

Fortunately, the ads ran for only a month until AFDI’s contract ran out. During that time SEPTA made its advertising policy much more restrictive—no guns; tobacco products; politics; viewpoints about “economic, political, religious, historical or social issues”; content that is “disparaging, disreputable or disrespectful” to various individuals and groups—in short, anything that “that threatens the public image of SEPTA.”

Some Florida Islamophobes are trying to ban two children’s books from the public school because they “promote” another religion than Christianity. Both books written and illustrated by Jeannette Winter are based on true stories: “Nasreen’s Secret School” is about a young girl in Afghanistan whose grandmother sends her to a secret school for girls, and  “The Librarian of Basra” is about Alia Muhammad Baker who saved part of Basra’s library collections before the building was burned after British forces entered the city. Two years ago, New York parents also tried to ban the books about book banning.

Texans in Farmerville, who firmly believe in freedom, don’t want a Muslim cemetery in their county. One of their threats is to dump pigs’ blood or put pigs’ heads on posts on the property so that Muslims won’t buy it. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33599843  The Muslims bought the property anyway. Three cheers for Mayor Joe Helmberger who said the cemetery would be approved as long as the town’s development standards are met and that the US was founded on religious freedom.

Islamophobes might use these Muslims as examples. During the aftermath of the white man who killed nine black people in a Charleston (SC) church, several black churches were burned, some because of arson. Muslims have raised over $100,000 to help rebuild these churches.

A ray of hope in separation of church and state: pharmacies cannot refuse to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, according to a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court. For the second time, this ruling overturned a 2012 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton who thought that the Washington state law violated religious freedom.  Leighton is a George W. Bush appointee, as is one of the three unanimous votes against Leighton.

Last May, Sharmira Johnson was awarded $75,000 after the Christian non-profit organization United Bible Fellowship Ministries after they fired her because she was pregnant. Women who are pregnant or recently gave birth have to be treated the same as others “in their ability or inability to work,” and employers must offer these women the same light duty or other workplace accommodations that they would offer any other employees.  An estimated 250,000 women are denied these requests each year, and an untold number of women don’t ask because of adverse consequences.

May 29, 2015

Pataki, Santorum Widen GOP Candidate Field

Rick-Santorum-at-CPAC-638x439

The GOP presidential candidate field increased by one-third this week with former candidate Rick Santorum and former New York governor George Pataki entering the fray. Rebranding himself without his iconic sweater vest, Santorum, a Catholic, is setting himself up as the evangelical alternative to Mike Huckabee, and the largely unknown Pataki will counter with his moderate—for Republicans—positions.

Santorum wants to move forward after unforgettable  statements on the Internet. He told an audience that President J.F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religious liberty made him want to “throw up” and accused President Obama of trying to get college education for more youth to turn them into liberals. His inarticulate ramblings against marriage equality became a Google sensation:

 “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality—”

Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan interrupted Santorum:

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about ‘man on dog’ with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.”

After that, Santorum stuck to showing the difference in marriages by waving napkins and paper towels. Columnist Dan Savage, however, ran a contest for a Santorum definition, the winner being “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.” Santorum continued by criticizing the Supreme Court’s right that its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas would lead to bigamy and incest. In other references he accused gays of being pedophiles and engaging in bestiality. Santorum’s incest statement is unfortunate because he is a good friend of the Duggar family, and Savage is working on a definition for “duggary.”  

Contraception is “not OK,” according to Santorum. “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” At the same time, he hates single mothers because he thinks people who “look to the government for help” give Democrats an advantage in getting votes. He believes that building two-parent families will “eliminate that desire for government.”

According to Santorum, the separation of church and state, although not in the U.S. Constitution, is “in the constitution of the former Soviet Union,” another GOP myth. Scholars have translated Article 124 of the Soviet Union’s 1947 version constitution: “In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.”

Santorum’s impassioned bombasts also led him to claim that blacks are those who get benefits from the country’s safety net. In Sioux City (IA) he told his audience, composed primarily of whites, that he didn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” He later denied using the term “black,” saying he meant “blah people.” Later, he began a sentence with “We know the candidate Barack Obama, what he was like – the anti-war government nig …”

Other Santorum statements:

The United States shouldn’t put women in combat because “emotions that are involved,” rendering them not fit for the battlefield. His dire predictions about letting lesbians and gays serve in the military have not come to fruition.

“The NBA” and “rock concerts” are corrupting U.S. culture, possibly because of the “blah people.”

Obamacare is like apartheid as well as a plot to kill the opposition’s voters and the “final death knell” of America. The apartheid statement was made after the death of Nelson Mandela to illustrate Santorum’s believe that people having health care in the U.S. is a “great injustice.” Santorum explained that health care is a system to “take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you.”

Health insurance companies should discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Santorum’s reason is the expense to the insurance company.

People who don’t have IDs are trying to rig the election. Although over ten percent of people living legally in the U.S. don’t have a government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or a passport, Santorum said, “The only reason you don’t have a voter ID is you want to continue to perpetrate fraud.”

Consensual LGBT sex should be illegal. “We can’t have a constitutional right to consensual sexual activity, no matter what it is,” Santorum said.

The U.S. is on the path to behead religious (aka Christian) people because of their faith, because of President Obama’s “overt hostility to faith in America.” Santorum’s faith, however, supported Penn State’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky because the “conclusions … [regarding child molestation] aren’t matched by the evidence that they presented.”

Some may declaim that these comments are in the past. Last night, however, Santorum said on the Kelly File that President Obama wasn’t killing enough people because he was afraid of “blowback” from killing civilians. Santorum’s position is that if the U.S. isn’t killing enough civilians because “it’s a public relations campaign.” If he became president, Santorum said, he would order air strikes on Iran if the country didn’t open up all their suspected nuclear program facilities.

To Santorum, “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no ‘Palestinian.’ This is Israeli land.” In his announcement speech, Rick said he wants to “drive a stake” through Common Core, junk the IRS, and institute a flat tax so that the poor pays the same percentage as Bill Gates.

Yesterday, Santorum said he worries about “anti-government rhetoric” and argued there is a place for government. “Government’s us,” he said. It’s a radical—and probably not permanent—shift from his claims that President Obama is a tyrant who “intentionally turned his back on evil and let it prosper around the world.” He has also said that the president is faking a war with ISIS to permit Christian persecution and “has a deep-seated antipathy toward American values and traditions.”  According to Santorum, business owners who refuse service to gay customers have been sent to “reeducation camps” and pastors will soon be jailed or martyred.

Every candidate needs a billionaire, and Santorum’s major donor is the same as during his last presidential run: Foster Friess, who claims that he won’t be using a super PAC which reports donors. “The money I give will be hard to track,” said Friess. The donor is memorable for suggesting that women use an aspirin for birth control by putting one between their knees.

George Pataki, who announced his candidacy the day after Santorum, is about as far from the rest of the current crowd as a Republican candidate can get. In supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S., Pataki said that the country cannot “send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains.” When signing a law to legalize marriage equality in New York, he said that the GOP’s focus on issues such as marriage equality and abortion are a “distraction” that hurt the party’s chance of retaking the White House. After the recent disastrous Amtrak derailment, Pataki called for major investments in the rail system and pushes for high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor. He is also in favor of environmental preservation efforts, abortion rights and gun control laws.

In its endorsement for Pataki’s third gubernatorial term in 2002, the so-called liberal New York Times praised Pataki’s “generally progressive stance on social issues.” This time, the NYT wrote that Pataki wants to deploy ground troops to take out ISIL and opposes government regulations to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and promote green energy. If elected, Pataki said he would cut the federal work force by 15 percent through repealing the Affordable Care Act, ending Common Core, and curbing the “overreach” of the Environmental Protection Agency. He also wants to start the federal tax code from scratch.

That that’s it for this week’s GOP presidential candidate announcements. Pataki most likely won’t win, but he’ll create an interesting dialog. Next week, watch for Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) and former Texas governor Rick Perry to join the eight GOP presidential candidates.

February 7, 2015

Social Democracy Saves U.S.

Socialism is a horrible concept for most conservatives. Instead of articulating specific problems, they use the word to denigrate any governmental action they don’t like. Giving money to the poor so that they don’t starve is “socialism”; on the other hand, giving subsidies to huge oil companies that make hundreds of billions is a Good Thing. While screaming that health care for all is socialism, people forget how they rely on social democracy, government-funded institutions established to benefit everyone through taxes and government regulation.

Following are respected ways that taxpayer funds collectively benefit people in the United States, despite income, contribution, or ability:

The Military/Defense/War: As the largest and most expensive socialist program in the world, the U.S. military protects everyone—not just the wealthy.

Customs and Border Protection: Conservatives love the biggest law enforcement agency in the nation.

Law Enforcement/Firefighters: Services from these people are available to almost all the communities in the country (except Tennessee).

Highways/Roads/Bridges: Almost all roads and highways in country have no charges for people who use them. The interstate highway system came from a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. During his time, the top 1 percent also had a 91-percent tax rate as compared to today’s 35 percent—and they dodge out of that to pay a lower percentage than the middle class does.

Transportation/Street Lighting/Road Signs/Power: City buses, snow removal, Amtrak—these are a few of the ways that the government helps move people from one place to another. The government built the Hoover Dam, a vital source of power for the West Coast.

Public Libraries: Ever use their books, computers, information services, etc.? This is the place that stocks all the books that talk about how bad socialism is. Don’t use it? It’s still available to you—for free.

Postal Service: People who bitterly complain about this service still get their mail delivered. Those who think that the USPS is operating in the red don’t know that Congress forces them to pay forward into the retirement fund for 75 years.

Student Loans and Grants/ G.I. Bill: People who borrow money to get a higher education still have to repay the money, but they don’t have to face a big bank refusing a loan. Educational grants are a form of socialism. Veterans can get an education or help with loans, savings, and unemployment benefits.

Farm Subsidies: Congress keeps voting for this form of socialism because they either benefit personally by getting subsidies or receive money from wealthy farmers for political campaigns.

Corporate/Business Subsidies/Bailouts/Welfare: Big corporations receive hundreds of billions for performing ethical actions such as hiring people and not sending businesses offshore. Congressional members who vote for these subsidies know that the same money will end up in the politicians’ pocket, a form of campaign welfare. Whether good or bad, subsidies are socialism.

Congressional Health Care/ Veteran’s (VA) Health Care: While Republicans have voted against the evils of government-run health care at least 56 times, they benefit from the same government-provided health care. Recently, people have criticized health care for veterans, but that’s because, unlike Social Security and Medicare, Congress controls how much–or little–money is allotted to this program.

Polio/Bird Flu/Swine Flu Vaccines: After Dr. Jonas Salk invented a vaccine to rid the country of this disease’s ravages, he gave it to the federal government instead of selling it on the open market. He took the position that he made enough money as a scientist. To him, it was more important that the government eradicate the country of polio. The government also sends vaccines to prevent bird flu  and swine flu across the country.

EPA/FDA/Departments of Agriculture and Energy: As all the conservatives whine about this government agency, they are largely protected from breathing deadly chemicals, drinking dirty water, and eating poisoned food. Part of the Energy Department’s responsibility is to keep everyone from radioactivity poisoning and a nuclear holocaust.

Social Security/Medicare: Everyone who works pays taxes to help seniors, disabled, and survivors while providing health care for seniors and disabled.

Public Schools:  Despite all the hype about private charter schools, the public school system is still the best in the country.

Jail/Prison System: This institution is slowly changing to privatization resulting in far more prisoners than in the past because contracts force states to guarantee a minimum number of prisoners. It’s just one of the systems that worked better and cheaper as a public institution.

Public Parks/Museums/Zoos/Beaches/Monuments: Pleasurable places where people can go for free or a small fee are part of the benefits that all people in the United States enjoy.

Elected Government Officials: Every person elected in the country is paid by taxes, supposedly to benefit all the citizens.

Court System: People too wealthy for public defenders have to pay for their own lawyers, but the rest of the system is government-funded.

FEMA: Most conservatives in Congress complain about the agency that provides help after disasters—until the disasters affect their own constituents.

Many conservatives buy into the myth of the “self-made man,” but the above examples show that no one is successful without assistance from government help. When she was a candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) explained the process:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

People are successful because of the social democracy in the United States, and health care is an important part of our U.S. success. Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect at the beginning of 2014, medical bills were the biggest cause of the two million bankruptcies in 2013, outstripping credit-card bills or mortgages.  About 56 million adults—more than 20 percent of the population between the ages of 19 and 64—struggled with health-care-related bills in 2013. During 2013, 15 million people depleted their savings to cover medical bills, and another 10 million couldn’t pay for necessities such as rent, food and utilities because of those bills. More than 25 million people skipped dosages by taking less medication or delaying refilling prescriptions.

People who call the United States the greatest nation in the world need to care for everyone, not just big businesses. With the ACA threatened by the Supreme Court case of King v. Burwell and half the states in nation refusing to accept the federal government Medicaid plan, the country needs single-payer plan instead of the privatization of health insurance. The result would be similar to the way the nation deals with military, law enforcement, education, courts, disasters, transportation, highways, etc.

At least one GOP legislator understands this concept, and he’s changing from the GOP to the Democratic party. Mississippi State Senator Tim Johnson also plans to run for Lt. Governor in the next election. His reason is the state’s refusal to take $5 million to expand Medicaid. He said:

“Elected officials should be in the business of helping all Mississippians. Not picking out who to hurt. In the current way of doing business in our State Capitol and especially in the State Senate, has hurt a lot of my fellow Mississippians. We watch these current leaders make excuses for underfunding our schools. We see them refuse to repair and maintain our crumbling roads and bridges. And we stood by while they ignored the twelve thousand dollars pay gap between working women and men. We have also witnessed shocking corruption on their watch.

“But the failure of the Republican leadership in the Senate to help sick people was the final straw. My home town hospital in Kosciusko Mississippi was up here the other day asking for a five million dollar stopgap bond loan to try to stay open due to the drastic hit they are taking because of Republican leadership refusing to take and accept the return of federal tax dollars through Medicaid Expansion. Instead of doing the right thing, the Republican leadership would rather see five million dollar tax burden on the backs of the eighteen thousand citizens of Attala County. That’s not right. That’s my hometown. And that’s my home county.

“If Montfort Jones Hospital had been closed three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have had a place to take my mother when she suffered a stroke. Thank goodness they were still open when we rushed her there for help. Because all indicators are that they won’t be open much longer all because of Republican political grandstanding.”

Mississippi is the poorest state in the Union. It gets about $3 back for every $1 that it send to the federal government. Fourteen states, including California and New York, get less than $1 back. That’s the way that this country benefits all–and that should include  health care.

October 15, 2014

How Outrageous Can GOP Politicians Get? Part I

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 10:04 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The GOP has been able to naysay much of President Obama’s agenda during his past six years, but it has accomplished one major achievement other than the massive gridlock disgusting all facets of the U.S. population. Through the GOP’s constant negativity, it has convinced many people that they would do better if people under them in the income food change made even less money. Instead of looking up at the people who get richer and richer because of their abusive behavior toward the middle class, they look down with contempt on the poor to justify denying them anything. People who work hard but can’t even make a living are blamed for their poverty. Thanks to conservatives, hard work no longer has any dignity. They believe that if people want more money, they should just work harder to better themselves.

Through massive donations to elect conservatives and wide-spread gerrymandering after the 2010 election, congressional GOP candidates are making big plans about what they will do after they take over the Senate and House in less than three weeks. No matter what they are saying on the campaign trail, they intend to carry out the following if they get into control:

Slash Spending: No money to protect the country except for defense and draconian cuts everywhere including health care and Social Security.

Roll Back Financial Reform: No Wall Street regulation despite the popularity of that move and loss of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created to protect customers.

Repeal Obamacare: Eradication of such benefits as no pre-existing conditions, children remaining on parents’ health insurance until the age of 26, no caps, no subsidies for the poor—on and on.

Shut Down the Country: Another debacle like the last one that cost the economy $700 billion in economic activity and two million jobs.

Around the country, GOP candidates are spewing their hatred for a large segment of the U.S. population, beginning with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who hopes to be Majority Leader in a few short weeks.

His state was one of the most successful in obtaining health care for people. Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the nation, 39th in the nation followed by ten other Southern states, and a massive education campaign allowed hundreds of thousands of people to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. In just that state, 531,000 people signed up for health care through the Affordable Care Act, 75 percent of them previously uninsured. That’s almost ten percent of the state’s population with health insurance who did not have it before “Obamacare.”

McConnell wants to destroy this although he said, “It’s fine to have a website, yeah.” Evidently, he wants to do away with the federal subsidy that makes insurance more affordable for most of his constituents but keep the website. McConnell also said that “Obamacare” would cost the nation 2.5 million jobs. What the nonpartisan CBO said, however, is that the law allows 2.5 million people to leave the workforce because they don’t have to be afraid of health costs.

Another big issue in Kentucky is the minimum wage: Mitch McConnell is opposed to even a modest $10.10 per hour. Opponent Alison Grimes accused him of getting “rich while consistently voting to keep Kentucky poor and we can’t have a senator like that any longer.” McConnell justified his wealth by saying that he inherited it with no mention of his $193,400 annual salary. With a net wealth of $22.8 million, he’s also in the top 10 percent of wealthiest senators. His wife’s inheritance came from her father who imported Chinese goods into the United States. Identifying himself as a member of the “party of the private sector,” McConnell has never had a private sector job.

Among all the offensive actions of GOP candidates, my vote for the worst goes to former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, now running for the same position in New Hampshire after he lost to Elizabeth Warren two years ago. His opponent is again a woman, this time incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. This video at the University of New Hampshire shows how he smiled while his audience shouted such epithets as “F**k Jeanne Shaheen,” “F**k Elizabeth Warren,” and “F**k her right in the p**y.” There were also references to one of the two women as a “c**t.” Tweets indicated that Brown also gave beer to undergrads at the event. Brown also displayed sexism toward earlier opponents, Warren and Martha Coakley.

AP A NH USA Democrats BucklyAnother New Hampshire misogynist, state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, wrote that U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.) will likely lose her House seat because she’s “ugly as sin” and “looks matter in politics.” His diatribe continued by saying, “I hope I haven’t offended sin.” Vaillancourt finds Kuster’s GOP opponent, Marilinda Garcia (left), the right level of attractiveness—not too much and not too little. Even Garcia was appalled at these statements.

marilinda-garciaann-mclane-kuster

Some religious people claim that the new rulings in favor of marriage equality are responsible for Ebola, but Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) has another reason: President Obama has brought the virus to the United States to take control of the country through emergency powers. The legislator has made up “Executive order 1332 or 33” and claims that the information is in Forbes. Last week, conservative columnist Morgan Brittany may have planted the seed for Stockman’s conspiracy theory by writing, “My fear is that this has all been orchestrated from the very beginning.” Only one person in the country has died from Ebola. That case was in Stockman’s state of Texas where bad health protocol sent away a man with a temperature of 103 degrees who said that he had come from a country where Ebola is killing people.

Adding to the “I’m not a scientist” response to avoid answers about human-caused climate change, denier Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) says, “I am a scientist.” After a BS in biology 40 years ago, he went on to graduate from medical school and now works as general surgeon. Denying pays well: the oil and gas industry was his third biggest donor for the past election. He claims he hasn’t found any scientific evidence about human-created climate change although peer-reviewed science literature has a 97-percent agreement that carbon emissions—caused by people—are a major cause of climate change.

Jim Bob Duggar isn’t running for anything except maybe greatest procreator (19 children with wife Michelle and counting), but he has been an Arkansas state representative. He explains that “the pill can allow women to get pregnant, but then it can be aborted.” He learned that from a “Christian doctor.” As some doctors in Congress prove, they can be very ignorant.

Georgia GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, David Perdue, felt that the North Carolina-based textile maker Pillowtex and its largest financial backer, Oaktree Capital Management, had no understanding of “the vulnerability that I was in.” The former Pillowtex CEO squeezed at least $1.2 million upon his leaving when the company went bankrupt and 7,600 people lost their jobs. Of that sum, $700,000 went to pay taxes because his Reebok stock did so well.

Running as a “job creator,” Perdue wants to create jobs in other countries instead of the United States. When asked about his career of outsourcing, he said, “I’m proud of it. This is a part of American business, part of any business. Outsourcing is the procurement of products and services to help your business run. People do that all day.”

GOP Jeff Bell is 20 points behind his opponent, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, among women voters. This statement might explain why:

“I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and looked at a lot of different polls, I think it has more to do with the rise in single women. Single mothers particularly are automatically Democratic because of the benefits. They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic Party.”

Some GOP legislators are so far over the edge that the Republicans don’t know what to do. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has consistently been on TV to tell people that ISIS militants are coming to the U.S. across the Mexican border. Both the U.S. and Mexico have claimed that he’s 100 percent wrong, but Hunter claims he has a “secret source.” When asked about it, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), 2016 presidential possible, answered, “It could happen.” Not a very useful answer. Then he said that they should get answers from the administration. But they already have: DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called the allegations “categorically false.”

There’s more about outrageous GOP candidates tomorrow in Part II.

June 24, 2014

Fix Our Country First

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:07 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Thirteen years ago, Bush/Cheney went to Iraq to rescue it from an oppressive dictator that the United States had installed decades earlier. Saddam Hussein may have killed 250,000 Iraqis during his 25-year reign, and the country suffered from U.S. sanctions that may have killed at least 500,000 infants.

When Bush/Cheney invaded Iraq, with no cause, it had several successful export-oriented industries such as leather goods and agricultural products that employed hundreds of thousands in fairly well-paid jobs. It had a resilient electrical, water, and highway infrastructure although sanctions were taking their toll on the infrastructure.

Iraq’s primary and higher educational system was the best in the area, and its government provided the best free health care in the Middle East. In a nation of 27 million people, it had the largest percentage of middle-class employed at three million people. Women enjoyed greater equality than any other Middle East country. And it had 2.5 million barrels of oil flowing each day that supported the country’s economic superstructure.

The invasion put oil revenues into “debt payment and reduced production by 40 percent. All government-run and oil-subsidized industrial plants were dismantling, bankrupting private industries. Commercial agriculture lost oil-financed subsidies and were destroyed by air attacks. Austerity measures removed the country’s educational and medical systems. Middle-class professionals who had belonged to the leading party were jobless or forced into exile. Their departure devastated the electrical, water, and highway infrastructure.

Eight years of war left 60-percent unemployment, sporadic electrical service, poisoned water systems, dysfunctional medical services, episodic education, and a lack of viable public or private transportation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki auctioned oil contracts off to international oil firms. Oil production increased, but the revenue went into the U.S.-selected government ranked as the seventh most corrupt on the planet. Maliki refused any funds for reconstruction in Sunni areas and used the money for military supplies, for example paying the U.S. $4 billion in 2011 for 18 F-16 jets. Only 25 percent of people in Iraq had clean sanitation, but Lockheed’s F-16 plant in Fort Worth benefited.

Any Iraqi government staffing positions went to Shia citizens in Shia areas as Sunnis lost any jobs that they might have regained. It’s not surprising that Sunnis fought to regain oil fields, refineries, and pipelines. With increasing guerilla attacks, Maliki escalated its repression of Sunni communities and any forms of protest. Once the Sunnis regain areas, they work to begin the construction process.

The current administration seems determined to support the existing Iraq government, comprised of Shiites and excluding Sunnis. Earlier this week, I wrote that the U.S. should look to our nation’s problems with domestic terrorists instead of going back into the Middle East to “fix” Iraq. Here are nine more reasons, thanks to an article by Carl Gibson:

We have the worst health care system in the developed world. Only in the U.S. do people profit from human illness and injury. For example, the average hip replacement here costs $40,364; in Spain, it costs $7,731.

We deliberately saddle college students with a lifetime of debt servitude. Student debt has now exceeded $1.2 trillion, more than our credit card debt. Each college graduate owes an average of $30,000. The debt curtails the ability of these graduates to purchase homes or even cars. Low wages require students to use loans for basic survival as well as tuition payments.

Other countries have free tuition for higher education or, at the very least, far less expensive charges. For example, when Quebec proposed a tuition increase from $2,200 to $3,800 over a six-year period, hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets in protest.

We have an oligarchy because the rich can buy their own politicians. With a population of 310 million people, our country allows 535 people, most of them millionaires, white, and male, to make all the federal decisions. These people are purchased by even wealthier people who have far more access to legislators than actual constituents.

We punish poor people for enduring the circumstances we forced them into. After billionaires pressured homeowners into risky subprime loans, many of the people lost their homes. In just Detroit, 60,000 homeowners were forced to vacate their homes, resulting in massive urban blight. The same billionaires who sold the loans then bought the homes for pennies on the dollar and developed them into housing for the wealthy.

Detroiters who kept their homes now have to pay increasingly higher rates for water that they couldn’t afford. Detroit has already shut off water for 150,000 households and continues the practice at 1,500 to 3,000 houses per week. The U.S. system rewards the rich and penalizes the poor.

We allow a rape epidemic on our college campuses to go unchecked. At least 20 percent of women on U.S. college campuses will experience sexual assault. These are only the reported ones. In many schools, the rapist will be permitted to continue at school—sometimes even with a living assignment in the same dormitory as the victim. Traumatized victims end up dropping out of school while conservative columnists like George Will bemoan the way the victims ruin the rapists’ lives by reporting them.

We send people off to die, and don’t take care of the ones who come back alive. The recent Veterans Affairs health debacle is just the tip of the iceberg. Whenever Congress tries to address veterans’ issues, the GOP members filibuster the bills.

In 2010, Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) bill to provide aid for homeless veterans with children was filibustered by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). A bill that would have spent $1 billion to hire veterans for jobs in the public sector was filibustered by 40 senate Republicans in 2012. And just this past February, Senate Republicans once again blocked a bill aimed at providing health care and education to veterans. Neocons push to send troops into Iraq while they deny returning veterans help.

We make it profitable to systematically incarcerate poor people and minorities. Private enterprise and county governments make money off imprisoning people. They succeed with heavy patrols of low-income neighborhoods and arresting young blacks for small amounts of marijuana.

Portugal’s addiction rate has dropped by one-half in the past decade since it because treating drug addiction as a public health issue. The drug war costs U.S. taxpayers $20 billion a year as drugs become more and more available. The country has more black men in prison than the number of slaves in the Confederate South. Prisoners paid pennies for a day’s work vastly increases the profits of private enterprise. These are jobs that once created a middle class in the nation

We cut our own public services while letting billion-dollar corporations dodge taxes. Architects and engineers have given our infrastructure a “D+” because roads and bridges have fallen into disrepair. Students fall far behind those in other countries because of our refusal to invest in public education. Republicans refuse to extend unemployment compensation for the hardest-hit victims of the economy and cut the food stamp program by billions of dollars.

At the same time, major corporations pay no taxes and receive subsidies because the GOP ignores the loss of over $100 billion in tax revenue annually.

Our police forces have become unaccountable paramilitary organizations. After wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down, local police forces took the surplus military equipment. Municipal police departments can get tanks, drones, firepower, armor, water cannons, flash bank grenades, LRAD sound devices, and other equipment not necessary for enforcing civilian law.

Frequently, the military equipment is used to remove non-violent protesters from public spaces. The U.S. condemns countries such as Russia and Egypt for using military equipment to suppress peaceful citizen protests while detaining U.S. citizens indefinitely in military jail for flimsy accusations.

Let’s address problems in our own country before we try to “fix” any others.

March 18, 2014

Corporations, the Biggest Welfare Queens

My small town newspaper has a few regular writers, most of them conservatives. Because the newspaper publishes no more than one letter from each contributors, their diatribes pop up about every 30 days. A few weeks ago, one of the Obama-haters wrote about the Affordable Care Act combined with opposition to the proposed minimum wage. In her mind, both of these will hurt the economy because they take away jobs. Thrown into her inflammatory speech were references to entitlements, “illegal alien amnesty,” the deficit, and the U.S. printing money.

Fortunately, the newspaper also permits “viewpoints” of up to 700 words, giving respondents more space to refute such a collection of misperceptions and falsehoods. Here is my answer, also printed in the local newspaper.

To the Editor:

The arguments against the Affordable Care Act and raising the minimum wage in the March 5, 2014 News Times suffer from cherry-picking of facts and emotional language in an effort to persuade people that having health care for all is a bad idea. Here are other facts—and a few opinions–to follow up “Affordable Care Act: Who will pay for it all?”

The viewpoint’s primary concern is that taxpayers in the country will be forced to provide additional funds for the jobs “lost” through the new healthcare plan by 2024 and the proposed enactment of a federal minimum wage of $10.10.

The ACA, originally developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, will boost the economy, according to CBO’s director Doug Elmendorf. With affordable health care, people now have more money to spend on other goods and services which then creates more jobs. The purported $70-billion wage loss came from a personal guesstimate of conservative columnist Mark A. Thiessen and not from the CBO report.

People who choose to stay home have been unfairly depicted as lazy. They may need to care for their children or sick relatives, be too sick to adequately perform job duties, want to retire a year of two early, or are looking for a few extra non-work hours. Some of these people may become entrepreneurs and pay more taxes through their businesses. Such conservatives such as Sens. Ted Cruz and John McCain have criticized the “job-lock” caused by high healthcare premiums.

The CBO reported that ACA will reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over 20 years and that people are paying less for ACA’s premiums than projected. Repealing the ACA would add $8 billion to the deficit, according to the CBO. This year’s deficit is on track to be only one-third of George W. Bush’s last budget. The stories about Joe Taxpayer paying more for insurance have all been debunked unless Joe wants junk insurance without hospitalization and other basic medical care or refuses to find lower premiums at a marketplace.

Low-income people are learning to use regular health care instead of getting expensive treatment at emergency rooms, another change that reduces taxpayer costs for health care. Premiums without taxpayer subsidies are also much less because insurance companies can no longer make huge profits by overcharging.

The second objection of the viewpoint was raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Even if this “loses” 500,000 jobs (which increasing the minimum wage doesn’t, according to several studies), this raise will decrease the taxpayer cost of food stamps by almost $4.6 billion per year. Oregon alone would save $26 million in just one year. As wages go up, taxpayer cost of ACA subsidies will go down. Increased wages also mean that people pay more taxes. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be $10.74 today instead of $7.25. The wage can’t reach $10.10 for three years, even if it were approved now, meaning that it will always stay behind past minimum wages.

Without increasing the minimum wage, taxpayers continue to subsidize corporations. Just one company, Walmart, netted $17.2 billion last year as the 300 employees at just one Walmart store cost taxpayers almost $1 million in public benefit costs. Overall, low minimum wages cost taxpayers at least $243 billion a year–$770 per taxpayer.

Like roads, law enforcement, firefighters, education, and other services that I may not use, good health care is a good investment. As good citizens, we all pay for things that we oppose—in my case, trillions of dollars for wars and a bloated Pentagon budget as compared to only billions for health care.

At the same time that people demand rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, some of them try to avoid their responsibilities as citizens of the richest nation in the world. One of these is affordable health care that can stop deaths for thousands of people, sickness for another hundreds of thousands, and bankruptcy for millions more. Other countries write healthcare into their constitutions. We, too, should recognize our duty to each other as citizens of the United States.

[Seven hundred words didn’t allow for the following:]

The majority of people in the United States, including Republicans, and the majority of small business owners want the minimum wage raised to $10.10. The increase of the minimum wage in Washington state, the highest in the nation, proves that increasing the minimum doesn’t lose any jobs. And the increase in minimum wage barely causes prices to go up. A Big Mac would cost just one dime extra if the minimum wage were to be $10.50, and Wal-Mart shoppers would pay an average of $12 more a year if the minimum wage were $12. At this time, people who work at McDonalds and Walmart can’t even afford to eat and shop there.

One of the biggest welfare queens in the country is Walmart. Its minimum wage costs taxpayers one-third of the annual $243 billion necessary for public benefits. Together the six Waltons on the Forbes 400 list have a combined net worth of $148.8 billion, the same amount as a combined 42 percent of U.S. families. Most workers make less than $25,000 a year with an average wage of $8.81 an hour. That’s 12.4 percent less than retail workers as a whole and 14.5 percent less than workers in large retail.

Taxpayers provide public funds not only for Walmart’s employees’ benefits but also for its tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing, and outright grants from state and local governments. In 2007 the cost to taxpayers was $1.2 billion; the amount has increased each year since then. Special tax loopholes such as those that permit avoidance of estate and inheritance taxes for Walmart family members cost taxpayers billions more in lost taxes, probably as much as $20 billon.

Walmart is a job killer, not a “job-creator.” For every two employees in their stores, almost three people lose their jobs as small businesses close and the corporation imports the merchandise from China.

Walmart is not the only nation’s welfare queen. A new report entitled “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent” from Good Jobs First shows the billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments to huge corporations. “Three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations.” That’s $110 billion going to big companies with $63 billion alone to over 16,000 subsidies of firms on the Fortune 500.

At over $13 billion, the biggest welfare queen in the report is Boeing. Others are Alcoa ($5.6 billion), Intel ($3.9 billion), General Motors ($3.5 billion) and Ford Motor ($2.5 billion). Dow Chemical got 416 federal funding awards, followed by Berkshire Hathaway (310), General Motors (307), Wal-Mart Stores (261), General Electric (255), Walgreen (225), and FedEx (222). “Economic development” programs go to corporations that don’t need the money. They may bring some jobs to town, but they create more difficulty when they leave town with empty buildings.

Many people don’t know how they are getting screwed by the big corporations. It’s not the safety net that’s killing the economy: it’s the low wages and lack of universal health care that’s wiping out people. If the wealthy and big corporations were forced to pay their own way in taxes and a living wage for employees, unemployment would go down and the economy would go up.

It’s not the safety net that’s destroying the creativity and independence of the workers in the United States. It’s the takeover in all communities of the small businesses where the owners could take pride as these jobs are exchanged for rote positions at a pittance. The same huge corporations destroy the families because the members no longer work together for a better life in a family-owned business.

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