Nel's New Day

February 2, 2016

Good News Despite Iowa Caucus

The Iowa caucus yesterday was a disaster for country that claims to be a democracy. Want to vote for a presidential candidate? Go to a corner and get counted. Want to decide on a delegate? Toss a coin. Want to have somebody run a caucus? Pick somebody who just showed up to vote and is clueless about structure and responsibilities?  Then there’s the winner. Marco Rubio came out first to declare himself a victor because he got third place for the Republicans—something accurately predicted by polls.

Then there’s the super PAC called Black Americans for a Better Future. Every donor is white. Of the $417,250 received in donations, $400,000 came from Robert Mercer, hedge-fund sugar daddy for Ted Cruz. The sole beneficiary of the super PAC is Raynard Jackson, a GOP black political consultant based in Washington, D.C. The money is  for events encouraging blacks to join the Republican party.

While the Iowa caucus controlled media content, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) admitted that he and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), current chair of the Benghazi investigation, created the attack on Hillary Clinton to keep a Democrat from being elected president. They hope that the committee’s persecution and pushing Clinton’s emails can cause her to lose to “a devout socialist who wants to nationalize almost everything in America,” according to Issa. That can be the rationale for concentrating on her emails and overlooking other high-profile leaders  who use private servers for their government emails.

While House members constantly attack Clinton and repeal health care, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) protects his party members by doing nothing for the next nine months. No decision about ISIS, no criminal justice reform legislation, and probably no trade deals. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) claim that the Senate doesn’t even need to pass a budget, despite the GOP complaints about the Dems in the same position. McConnell plans to string out the 12 annual appropriation bills to appear that he’s doing something.  Of the 34 seats up for re-election in the Senate, 24 are held by Republicans including Johnson and Portman. Losing five of those seats turns the majority in the Senate back to the Democrats.

People of the United States did experience a victory last Friday. For a few months, the United States won’t be giving out any new permits to frack for oil or gas off the California coast in the Santa Barbara Channel off Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where Exxon Mobil and other oil companies operate platforms. The settlement from the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles also requires the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to analyze the environmental dangers of offshore fracking and acidization under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). After the deadline of May 28, 2016, the public has at least 30 days to review and comment on the assessment.

Over 200 cases of fracking in state and federal waters off California have rubber-stamped permits from federal regulators, and the oil industry dumps over 9 billion gallons of wastewater into the ocean off the California coast every year. At least ten fracking chemicals routinely used offshore kills marine life, including otters and fish. Some of the many fish species that could be harmed by fracking pollution include white seabass, sand and kelp (calico) bass, lingcod, sheephead, ocean whitefish, yellowtail, bonito, barracuda, yellowfin tuna, sculpin, yellow croaker, barred surfperch and dozens of species of rockfish.

The settlement could affect oversight of all federally permitted offshore fracking, including that in the Gulf of Mexico which has never had any environmental review. The Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 could protect these species, but it has never been fully implemented and enforced, with no protection for ocean pollution, fracking, oil drilling, oil spills, military testing, corporate aquaculture, and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

A state panel to determine so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California between 2009 and 2012 was led by a oil industry lobbyist. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force as her industry fracked the waters with little or no government oversight. State officials promised to review the “marine protected areas” every five years but changed to 10-year reviews.

Conservatives angry about protecting the ocean are also going to be furious about Facebook’s announcement that it will ban users from selling guns on both its main site and its photo-sharing site Instagram. Licensed gun dealers can still post with the requirement that they do not conduct purchases on the site, but it applies to the private gun sales not requiring background checks in most states.

Facebook rules cover gun parts and ammunition as well as guns. Federal laws don’t cover guns if they are 80 percent or less complete, like an “unfinished lower receiver.” In this way, people can buy “incomplete” guns without serial numbers or background checks, and people can buy these parts and put them together for an untraceable gun. Some websites even sell the machines to complete receivers with the promise that buyers can build unserialized firearms legally in your own home. The federal government can’t block this, but Facebook can decide what it doesn’t want to sell—such as marijuana, pharmaceuticals, or other potentially illegal objects.

With one debate before next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, media will be consumed by presidential candidates. At least that state uses real ballots. Both parties debate next week—Dems on February 11 and GOP on February 13—before decisions on a Democratic candidate in Nevada and the GOP candidate in South Carolina on February 20. The two parties can’t even vote on the same day in those states: Democrats wait another week to vote in South Carolina and the GOP won’t caucus in Nevada until February 23. Four weeks from today is Super Tuesday with a solid dozen states. Maybe that will produce a decision—or not.

Martin O’Malley on the Democratic side and Mike Huckabee on the GOP side have both dropped out. Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus in 2008, said, “The voters are sick of me.” In the 2012 Iowa caucus, the first winner was Mitt Romney. After Iowa GOP decided they made a mistake, they selected Rick Santorum and then went on to declare Ron Paul the real winner. The next dropout may be John Kasich who said that he’ll be gone if he doesn’t do well in New Hampshire. No one knows what Donald Trump will decide.

Ted Cruz’s campaign has outdone Trump’s outrageousness by spreading the news during the Iowa caucus that Ben Carson was planning to drop out of the race. Later Cruz apologized, calling it a “mistake” but said that it was “fair game” to update his “grassroot leaders” that “Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina.” Twenty minutes after the caucuses began in Iowa, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the Cruz campaign’s national co-chair, tweeted, “Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope.”

Cruz had already gained the ire of Iowa’s secretary of state after Cruz sent mailers that misrepresented state election law. A warning of a “voting violation” in capital letters at the top of the page was followed by that statement that people were receiving notice “because of low expected voter turnout in your area.” The flier continued, “Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.” After that were a list of names, letter grades, and percentage scores.

sandersclintondebate

The highlight of my week will be the Democratic debate on MSNBC Thursday, February 4–if it happens. Moderator Rachel Maddow will moderate, and Fox can watch to see how debates should be run. It’s still up in the air because Bernie Sanders first said he wanted the debate, but now he says he won’t debate unless Hillary Clinton agrees to his conditions on future debates.

And the joke that the U.S. calls democracy continues.

 

January 4, 2012

Iowa Caucus Finished, Obama Makes Recess Appointments

What an interesting caucus in Iowa! Michelle Bachmann is gone, Rick Perry will “reassess” his candidacy on January 21 (or not, depending on the moment), and Rick Santorum (the next “anyone-but-Romney” candidate) lost to Mitt Romney by 8 votes. Romney received six fewer votes than in 2008 when Mike Huckabee got 40 percent of the vote.

Friends of Romney may start focusing their venomous television advertising on Santorum. Jon Huntsman didn’t even try for Iowa votes, and Newt Gingrich keeps plugging along to sell his books. Meanwhile Ron Paul, in third place, might consider running as a third candidate.

The best news of the day, however, is that the Democrats are retaining a spine. Fed up with the Republicans’ constant stalling, aka filibuster, President Obama will keep the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) functioning by recess-appointing Sharon Block, Richard Griffin, and Terence Flynn to the board. Block and Griffin are Democrats; Flynn is a Republican. Without these appointments the NLRB would lose its three-member quorum, necessary for issuing rules and regulations, because Craig Becker is another recess appointment.

Obama also made a recess appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB was created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to enforce a variety of financial consumer protection laws. Without a director, it cannot follow the law’s mandate. Republicans thought that if they blocked this appointment, they could stop the law from taking effect, a process known as nullification.

Cordray was the first state AG to sue a mortgage lender over fraudulent practices and led efforts to rein in payday lenders. The CFPB, according to the law that passed 18 months ago creating the board, is tasked with overseeing lenders and financial institutions to prevent the types of predatory practices such as foreclosure fraud, discriminatory mortgage lending, and practices from payday, student loan, and credit card lenders that cheated and defrauded the American people before and through the recession.

All these positions have been empty for over a year because of the Republicans’ stalling.

As usual, many Republicans are having a fit, claiming that this has never happened before and is unconstitutional. Recess-appointments require a ten-day recess; Congress recessed on December 23. Republican leaders claim that this constitutes no recess. On the other hand, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has said that he approves Obama’s actions because the Washington system is “broken.”

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt made more than 160 appointments during a recess of less than one day. President Ronald Reagan averaged three times as many recess appointments as Obama each year, making 243 total appointments during his time in office. Meanwhile, filibusters, a real power grab by conservatives, have increased two-fold since Obama took office, and a large number of votes never occur because of the GOP’s threats to filibuster.

All these appointments are very good news for the nation’s 99 percent!

January 3, 2012

What Would Jesus Think of the Candidates?

Every day all the Republican presidential candidates fall over each other trying to move farther to the right (although it seems impossible to go farther!) and convince the fundamental religious people that each one of them is the most religious. But What Would Jesus Think? From the stories published about him in the bible, he would be pretty disgusted. These candidates and their followers are people who think that the United States should be a theocracy. It’s pretty evident that Jesus does not play into their belief that God should run the country.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”—Jesus

By this rule about 1 percent of the people in the United States aren’t going to get into that kingdom, but they are graciously making sure that the other 99 percent will go. Rick Perry lauds his state’s tax system in which the poorest 20 percent of Texans generally pay more than four times in state and local taxes of their overall income than the richest 1 percent of the people in the state. That’s because Texas counts on sales and excise taxes for income gathering. Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan would have saved $1.4 million a year for the taxpayers in the top 0.1 percent making more than $2.7 million. (Yes, I know Cain is gone, but his ideas aren’t.)

Mitt Romney’s tax plan would save Koch Bros up to $8.7 billion each. Romney’s philosophy of curing the foreclosure problem, according to one debate, was to “let it run its course, to hit the bottom and let investors buy the home.” Michelle Bachmann likes the China approach because they let their poor people rot and die in the streets.

The candidates missed the story about Jesus’s socialist action of throwing the money changers out of the temple.

“He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”—Jesus

Candidates and their followers who support this guideline must be totally sinless. The cheering at debates for Perry’s execution of 234 death-row inmates during his term and Ron Paul’s response to a question that he would let someone without health insurance just die have become infamous. Cain also got cheers for possibly killing immigrants trying to come into the country from Mexico.

Paul also has support from a religious leader who wants to kill the gays. Perry is milder about LGBT people: he just wants to jail them.

“Peacemakers” are “blessed” and would be considered “sons of God.”—Jesus

Most of the candidates defend waterboarding, torture that used against terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. (Note the word “suspects.”) Those who think that waterboarding is not that uncomfortable haven’t had it used on them. Perry said he would defend the use of torture techniques “until the day I die.”

Except for Libertarian Paul, the candidates unanimously endorsed invading and bombing other countries. Newt Gingrich was very specific, delighting in “taking out their scientists” and “breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable.” Rick Santorum believes in long-term wars; he thinks that our Good versus Evil Battle against Muslamonazism will be “1000 years long.”

Any man who “looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Jesus

Gingrich went much farther than lusting; he acted on his impulses and then lied about his first wife wanting a divorce. The lies were after he said that he cheated on his wife because he was “driven by how passionately I felt about this country” and thus “worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”  When the religious right wanted to vote for him (remember those two weeks?), they forgave him because he had repented.

More recently than Gingrich’s peccadilloes were Cain’s affairs which the religious folk declared were either lies on the part of the women or just the women’s fault. As customary in our society, the advantage goes to the poor abused male.

A look at the candidates shows that Rick Santorum’s statement about Romney four years ago is still accurate: “Sometimes the best isn’t that great, but it’s the best.” Speaking of Santorum, he’s finally getting his brief day in the sun at the Iowa caucus. With about half the “votes” in, he’s a few votes ahead of Romney. Sometimes the best isn’t that great ….

January 2, 2012

GOP Primary Rules Crazy

The first day of every Leap Year starts the frantic voting/caucusing for presidential candidates. This year the media has whipped its audience into frenzy over the Republican nominee; thus far only President Obama is on the Democratic side. The selection process has become even  more laughable this year than previously.

The first source of comedy comes tomorrow at the Iowa caucus. It’s not even a legal voting process—no ballots, no filing, no signatures, no fee: people just gather together to write down their choice on a blank sheet of paper or raise their hands for the chosen one. Despite the Republican push to force people to produce government-issued photo IDs before voting, the caucuses have no such requirement. Perhaps Republicans believe that only Democrats might perpetrate voter fraud.

Before the selection, candidates or their surrogates may give a last-minute pitch. Any Iowa resident who chooses to register as Republican by tomorrow night is allowed to participate. Seventeen-year-olds are allowed to take part as long as they turn 18 by November 6, 2012. So tomorrow night people will gather in 1,774 precincts in schools, churches, community centers, homes, etc. throughout the 99 counties to follow the infamous practice of  “first in the nation.”

Many people think that Iowa caucuses are vital because of the state’s large number of delegates. Not so! Their 25 delegates are about 1 percent of the total making the decision, and fewer than 10 percent of Iowa voters, at best 150,000 “deciders,” determine this nonbinding agreement. Thus the first decision in the nation for Republican presidential nominee involves 0.01% of Republicans, a number approximating the population of Eugene, Oregon.

New Hampshire disagrees with Iowa’s “first” claim. One week after Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire has a real primary with real ballots. From there on, the new Republican rules go crazy.

The Republican Party mandates that all states holding nominating contests before April award delegates proportionally. Sounds like a fair deal? States, however, may define “proportionally” any way that they wish. For example, in each of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, the candidate who gets the most votes receives three delegates. The remaining 15 delegates in the district are then awarded “proportionally,” based on statewide results. Candidates have to get at least 20 percent of the statewide vote to get these delegates. My head’s spinning by now, trying to figure out how this works!

The Republican National Convention scheduled for August in Tampa (FL) should include 2,286 delegates with 1,144 required to get the nomination. According to the GOP Committee, it’s impossible for any candidate to get the necessary 1,144 before April. We just wait to see who drops out by then to thin the field.

The process gets crazier. States that scheduled primaries earlier than the Party allows have lost half their delegates. That includes Arizona and Michigan (2/28), South Carolina (1/21), and Florida (1/31). But the Party declared that South Carolina and Florida may award all their delegates to the majority candidate—forget the “proportional.” At least Floridawas okay with no “proportional” until December 31st when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wrote that Florida’s delegates might have to be “proportional” because of protesters.

Michigan is following the Ohio “proportional” system but uses a slightly different approach. Reduced to 30 candidates from 59 per the GOP penalties for an early primary, Michigan plans to keep the 59 delegates (56 based on the primary and 3 the state’s RNC members) with each one of the 56 having one-half voting power at the convention. Because half of 56 is 28, not 30, fractions cause more difficulties. If a candidate gets 25 half-delegates, do they get 12 or 13 votes?  “We’ll work that out once we get closer to choosing the delegates who will go,” said Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party. The delegate system is as crazy as the candidates are!

Nate Silver, the man who puts together all the polls and then estimates the election results pretty closely, has this to say about tomorrow’s Iowa results:

“Our forecast model, which combines the Public Policy Polling survey with other recent polls of the state, also shows an effective three-way tie, although it has Mr. Romney ahead by the slimmest of margins. The model projects Mr. Romney to receive 21.0 percent of the vote, followed by Mr. Paul at 20.6 percent and Mr. Santorum — whose numbers have been on the rise — at 19.3 percent.”

Of course, almost half the caucus-goers haven’t made up their mind yet! Who knows in what direction the delegate selection will head.

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