Nel's New Day

October 25, 2015

Offensive Religion Positions

The Duggars (19 Kids and Counting) just seem to stay in the news. Now a lawsuit has accused The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the homeschooling program used by the Duggar family, of covering up sexual assault against underage girls. Founder, former director, and Josh Duggar counselor, Bill Gothard, left IBLP on “indefinite administrative leave” because of sexually harassing and abusing employees. He wasn’t named in the suit but is accused of abusive actions against the plaintiffs. IBLP’s homeschooling teachings were depicted on the Duggar reality program.

The series notorious for using plots “ripped from the headlines,” Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will use the Duggars’ story in its November 4 episode. In this segment, “Patrimonial Burde,” a 13-year-old daughter of a famous television family of ten children discovers that she is pregnant. The plotline also has a few allusions to Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol, now pregnant with her second child as she follows her abstinence-only program.

GOP leaders continue to focus on the Christian bible to promote their conservative beliefs. For example, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used the Good Book as his authority in requiring nonviolent criminals to “pay back” their crimes in a form of enslavement. Answering radio host Jan Mickelson about paying restitution in embezzlement, Huckabee wants forced repayment to be “twofold, fourfold,” through labor if necessary.

The Constitution actually allows this involuntary slave labor through the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery except in prison. Corporations owning private prisons generate a great deal of profit because the wages go to them and not to the prisoners. For example, up to 40 percent of the forest firefighters in California are prisoners; the state opposes an early prison-release program to minimum custody inmates because they would lose the cheap labor for fighting fires. Huckabee’s philosophy of imprisonment of people who can’t “pay back” is illegal, however, because of several Supreme Court cases that prevent imprisonment for the inability to pay court fines, fees, and restitution. Yet many conservatives want a return to the days of Charles Dickens.

Thanks to the Maine governor, Paul LePage, a creationist is the state’s new “acting educational commissioner,” meaning that the appointment cannot be challenged by the state for six months. Bill Beardsley ran against LePage on a single issue platform, that only creationism should be taught in schools. Like most creationists, the new official also believes that worrying about climate change is foolish because it “[hasn’t] been proved in science.” LePage tries to control government by threatening to veto every bill on his desk unless he is permitted to pass anything he wants without complaint. Even his own party is concerned about his mental health.

Another Maine scandal is LePage’s threat to cut off state funding to a charter school unless it fired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) for a top position. The school reluctantly let Eves go. LePage hasn’t denied the blackmail and even compared what he did in a domestic violence dispute. “It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

Eves filed a federal civil lawsuit, and the state Government Oversight Committee is investigating the situation with subpoenas for two members of LePage’s administration who refused to cooperate. The governor is unsuccessfully trying to force the committee’s Republican chair to recuse himself. The chair of the charter school’s board of directors agreed that the governor had cut off funding after the school hired Eves, but LePage said that he had the discretion to withhold funding under his control of the budget.

Known for campaigning by demonizing the Arabs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now blaming the Palestinians for the Holocaust. In a public speech, Netanyahu said that Hitler’s elimination of the Jews in Europe was the idea of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who told Hitler to burn the Jews rather than deport them. History shows this to be a lie because Hitler put forth the “Final Solution” two years before the mufti met with Hitler. The Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has come forward to protest Netanyahu’s claims, remarking that “history clearly shows that Hitler initiated” the Holocaust.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Netanyahu was wrong, that the German people were “very clear in our minds” about where the responsibility for the Holocaust falls. Despite reports from historians, Netanyahu continues with his propaganda to block a two-state agreement in a portrayal of the Palestinians as committee to the extermination of Jews.

Today’s Meet the Press addressed Jeb Bush’s statement that he doesn’t want to participate in the election if the gridlock can’t be solved:

 “If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want anything, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

Rumors of Bush’s failing campaign has caused reporters to asked about whether it is falling apart. Bush’s only response was one that smacks of entitlement. “Blah blah blah, Blah,” he said. “That’s my answer.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/meet-press-october-25-2015-n451121  A panel member of today’s Meet the Press, biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin addressed Bush’s behavior:

“Compare that with how McCain handled himself in a similar situation in ’07. He was cutting staff as Mr. Bush has, his poll numbers had gone down, he was in a bad place. And he said, ‘It’s how you face a challenge politically and physically that determines your character and your courage.’ And he said I’m going to be going on a bus, I’m going to be lean and mean, and he said I’m going to go out among the people. And eventually, Mac was back.

“I mean you have to take these moments of adversity, and you have to show strength and courage and forward optimism. You can’t blame the process. You’re it– you’re in it.”

Later she quoted Adlai Stevenson, “The challenge is not how to win an election, but how you win without proving yourself unworthy to win?”

If there’s one commonality among all the GOP presidential candidates, it’s that they have shown themselves “worthy to win.”  Carson is another example. Preening after the Iowa polls show himself on top, he said that he didn’t need experience to be the president, that all it takes is common sense. His solution is to surround himself with advisors—something that George W. Bush did during his failed presidency. Carson’s other excuse is that the U.S. Constitution is easy to read because it’s written at an eighth-grade level. According to the well-respected Flesch-Kincaid readability test, the Constitution is scored at a 17.8 grade level.

Almost any mention of religion by politics causes “religion rage.” Ben Carson wants Donald Trump to apologize for his statement that Trump doesn’t know anything about Seventh-day Adventists, Carson’s religious following. Trump didn’t denigrate the religion, but the Internet flows with demands for apologies from Trump. It may have seemed offensive, but Carson has been far more offensive, comparing women who have abortions to Nazis, saying that homosexuality is chosen because straight people become gay in prison, accusing Planned Parenthood of deliberately killing black babies, etc. Trump’s statement about Carson’s religion is very mild compared to Carson’s attacks on people who don’t following his religion.

October 24, 2015

Dem Pool Shrinks by Half; Bush in Trouble

The presidential candidate pool of 2016 is more shallow now after the loss of a few men running from both parties. The one causing the most excitement was a man who never declared his candidacy but kept people dangling from hints that he might. I always felt that Vice-president Joe Biden wasn’t going to be a candidate. By the time he got initiated, he would be 74 years old—definitely a one-term president and a lame duck from the get-go. Pushed by supporters and waiting for Hillary Clinton to be a disaster on the Democratic side, he kept making presidential statements, such as lambasting Clinton for declaring the GOP as her enemy.

Biden came away from the Democratic debate preaching bipartisanship with the party of Donald Trump and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), late of the 11-hour hearing debacle from the Benghazi select committee. President Obama went into his first term advocating a bipartisan approach with GOP members who were not as extremist as now (hard to believe!) and lost three years. GOP congressional members promised to vote for bills if the president watered them down. He did, and they didn’t. That’s why the country is stuck with the mish-mash of the Affordable Health Care Act giving money to private insurance companies instead of a successful single-payer plan. After three years in office, President Obama finally understood that the GOP is not to be trusted. Clinton understands the vicious motivation of the GOP before the final months of her campaign, and the conservative party made their position very clear by threatening to impeach Clinton on the first day of her presidency.

With many faithful followers, Biden looked like a good possibility to take over the Dem race. His poll numbers were also up, but looking like a success is easier if a person isn’t actually competing. He has a good background in some areas such as authorizing the Violence against Women Act, but Biden comes with baggage. there’s also some baggage to Joe Biden. His banking ties a representative of Delaware, the state with loose laws surrounding corporations, may have put him too close to credit-card companies before the past few years. In 1988, he dropped out of the presidential candidacy after accusations of plagiarism in a speech.

The hearings for Clarence Thomas, possibly the worst Supreme Court justice ever, may also come back to haunt Biden. He chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment and failed to call on three other witnesses who would have given the same testimony as Hill. Although Biden has evidence regret about the hearing, he has not apologized for subjecting Hill, a black woman, to public humiliation. Those hearings are over 24 years in the past, but a new movie coming out will definitely revive memories of those dark days.

Before the Thomas hearings, Biden voted against legal abortion in 1982 by supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. During the next two decades, he received mixed marks from NARAL Pro-Choice America with a 36 percent rating in 2003, 0 being total disagreement. Biden did defend women’s rights to abortions during his 2008 presidential run but always claimed that he is opposed to abortion and always supported the Hyde Amendment, claiming that people opposed to abortion shouldn’t have to pay for them. Biden accepts his Catholic faith’s position that “life begins at conception.” He also voted in favor of the Iraq War, believing that people opposed to war should still have to pay for it.

The most recent candidate to drop out of the Democratic race is Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee. This step was a given after his failure to defend a vote at the first Democratic debate, but it became pretty definite when someone overheard him talking about it in the frozen foods section of a Dave’s Marketplace on Thursday night. Chafee made his official withdrawal during a speech to the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington the next morning.

Jim Webb’s change in status from Democratic candidate to a possible third runner in the final election reduces the Democratic field by one half to three people. Less known than any other candidate unless perhaps GOP Jim Gilmore, who hasn’t qualified for any debates, Webb’s record shows a short attention span—Secretary of the Navy for Ronald Reagan for only one year and senator for only one term, both by his choice. Those watching the Democratic debate may remember him for whining about not having enough time to talk and bragging about killing a North Vietnamese soldier. He also complained about his party leaving him—probably because he’s a Southern Democrat, another term for Republican. He defends the Confederate flag and the Confederacy, opposes gun-safety legislation, and rejects the Black Lives Matter movement. A descendant of Confederate officers, he has voiced sympathy for state sovereignty leading to the Civil War and suggested that the states were justified in trying to secede.

Webb is the only Democratic candidate to appear on the Fox network where he criticized Democratic policies in an interview with Bret Baier. Webb said that the Dems is their failure to champion the working people, using people with no health care for an example. In fact, it is the GOP that tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act fifty-plus times. Twelve years ago, he wrote an op-ed that supported Swiftboating Republicans who attacked John Kerry for opposing the Vietnam War by saying that Kerry didn’t deserve his Purple Star. Webb has said that women are biologically unsuited to fight in wars and poison male cadets with their presence.

The question now is who will be the next candidate to drop out on the GOP side. At this time donors are showing disillusionment with everyone except the top runners, and Jeb Bush is not in that top three. An average of 194 recent polls puts Bush at 7.3 percent, not far above Carly Fiorina at 4.7 percent. A recent poll puts Donald Trump ahead of Bush by 59 percent to 41 percent. Only two U.S. representatives—no senators or governors—have endorsed Bush within the past two months.

Worst of all, he raised only $13.5 million during the past three months, instead of the hoped-for $25 million, and spent $11.5 million of it. He has less cash on hand than Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson, forcing Bush to reduce expenditures. Bush cut staff salaries by 40 percent, reduced staff members in Miami by one-half, and uses cheaper hotels. Money problems drove Scott Walker out of the race; Bush’s SuperPAC raised $103 million in the first six months, but the lack of money coming into the campaign does not bode well.

While Bush goes down, Marco Rubio goes up, perhaps because he has more to talk about than a brother who caused the United States great disaster while president. Rubio has similar positions to Bush, but he’s younger and more charismatic, especially since the “joy” that Bush touted in his campaign has disappeared. Bush can brag about more experience, but the GOP, who put Trump and Carson at the top of the list, seems to consider experience a liability instead of an advantage. Walker claimed to drop out of the race for “the good” of the party; the question is whether Bush will do the same.

The next few days may indicate a direction for Bush, the candidate, as Bushes descend on Houston en masse—Papa Bush, little brother George, and sons, Jeb Jr. and George P. The events include a Monday breakfast, a Tuesday evening reception, and a program later for younger donors at beer distribution company Silver Eagle.

The next GOP debate is October 28, 2015—just four days from now.

October 18, 2015

World Didn’t End, Benghazi Arguments Continue

October 7, 2015 has come and gone, and people reading this are still here despite the predictions of the E-Bible Fellowship. Their website’s explanation for the mistake reads in part:

“The world today is populated by a generation of people that has outdone all past generations for wickedness. It tends to view a “passed date” for its end as some sort of victory and celebrates it as though it means it will now never end. And yet, the truth is that the world is in its death throes. A date of destruction given to the world (like October 7th, 2015) is like a man with a terminal disease that was given a short time to live his Dr. The man passes the 6 months (or year) he was told. Yet the prognosis hasn’t changed. He’s still terminally ill. It’s still certain he will die from his disease. It’s just a matter of when that remains in question.”

There have no posts since that one on October 8. Unfortunately, the congressional control of climate deniers gives a sense of validity to the planet’s “terminal disease.” Meanwhile the United States struggles to loosen a grip by fundamentalist Christians.

Muslims may inadvertently cause fundamentalist Christians to separate church and state. In Tennessee, conservative legislators want to prohibit “anything deemed ‘religious doctrine’ ” for public school students in ninth grade or younger after parents complained about the content of world history curriculum. Teachers were teaching about the Five Pillars of Islam in order to “provide historical context about the influence the religion had on regions of the world.” And about Islamic role in introducing algebra and influencing the Renaissance. The resolution of “no religious indoctrination” in schools will be very enlightening.

First, Rowan County (KY) Clerk Kim Davis refused to allow anyone in her office to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Then she spent five days in jail and said that her staff could issue the licenses although they wouldn’t be legally binding because she changed them. Now she’s totally caved: her lawyers admit that they are binding. Meanwhile federal judge David L. Bunning has ordered Kentucky’s Democratic governor Steve Beshear to decide if the altered marriage licenses are valid.

A bike lane is impinging on a Washington, DC church’s “religious liberty” because fewer parking spaces” “would place an unconstitutionally undue burden on people who want to pray.”

Televangelist Pat Robertson usually has an answer for everything—frequently “send me money”—but one viewer took him aback. “Why have you undergone surgeries if your faith would be enough?” prompted Robertson come up with some non-answers before he said, “I don’t know what else to say. If you have enough faith … maybe I don’t have enough, but I have enough for other people.”

Herb Titus, a dominionist Christian Reconstructionist attorney, has declared that the United States has changed its immigration policy and gone against the Bible. Immigrants can come only from countries that are based on Christian principles because the United States would otherwise “become a kind of multicultural society,” according to Titus. He said, “We had a carefully designed policy for many years to allow as immigrants into the United States only those people from countries that have a Christian-principled culture.” What he bases his beliefs on, no one seems to know. The U.S. has had quotas, but they were based on nationality. Barring all Asians from emigrating was not based on religion, but ethnic background.

A federal judge seems to be supporting Titus in acting unconstitutionally. Texas health officials are denying birth certificates to immigrant families with U.S.-born children, and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman has denied an emergency injunction to recognize identification cards issued by Mexican consulates to citizens living and working in the U.S. Before 2013, these documents were acceptable to receive birth certificates. The immigrant rights lawyers represent 28 adults and their 32 children. Without birth certificates, the children could be considered criminals and deported. The newborns could not even receive baptisms without birth certificates. The 14th Amendment guarantees the right to citizenship for children born on U.S. soil, and the parents have documentation from the U.S. hospital where the children were born.

Evangelical pastor Rob Schenck has taken on Sarah Palin in a documentary, The Armor of Light, about gun violence and the question of whether a person can be both pro-life and anti-gun safety. One scene shows Palin telling a NRA audience not to waste ammunition on a warning shot. She criticized Vice-president Joe Biden for this advice and said, “Gals, you know that nowadays, ammo is expensive. Don’t waste a bullet on a warning shot.” In the film’s voice-over, Schenck wonders about the “ethical dimensions of having a constant, defensive posture.” He said, “When pastors, preachers, bible teachers, ignore these questions, it creates a vacuum. And other voices fill that vacuum.”

I admire Pastor Schenck for addressing this issue, but he’s going to have a difficult time persuading the people who think that they have the right to shoot anyone at any time because of their skewed sense of reality. An example of this is the Alabama KKK. In an interview with the BBC documentary, KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy, a KKK member explained that the Nazi Holocaust concentration camps were actually “summer camps” for Jewish people instead of death camps.

“These death camps, they gave the so-called people that were being killed cigarettes, there was coffee, there was a movie theater, a library, even a swimming pool in Auschwitz. And if you’re going to sit there and kill all these people then how come all these things would be in there?”

Stunned, the interviewer asked the KKK member what the Jews were doing in Auschwitz. “Swimming” was the answer. “And working. Because they didn’t want to do any work, and what Hitler was trying to do was he was trying to teach them to work, trying to rehabilitate them, if you will.” Asked where he heard this, the Klan member said, “It’s all history.”

And now all the television viewers in Great Britain will know how stupid “Amuricans” are.

Sunday is almost as well known for political interviews as for religion, and CNN’s Jake Tapper hit the ball out of the park in his interview with Jeb Bush. Raw Story described this follow-up to Donald Trump’s comment that George W. Bush was president during the 9/11 attacks. There was nothing false about Trump’s statement, but Bush has taken great umbrage at the insinuation that Bush was responsible for the disaster.

Tapper asked Bush how he could blame Hillary Clinton for the attacks in Benghazi while exonerating his brother George W. from any blame for the 9/11 disaster. Told that “my brother … kept us safe,” Tapper asked if Bush’s loyalty to his brother “might be in some ways a political or policy liability blinding you to mistakes he made.” Tapper continued by asking how Bush could “make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi.” Bush was unable to find an answer, but Tapper asked why terrorists were not responsible for the four deaths at Benghazi if they were those solely responsible for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Bush said, “They are!”

Bush has a problem: either he admits that his brother was inept in protecting the country by ignoring intelligence about Osama bin Laden’s attacking the U.S., or he is forced to admit that Clinton and the Obama administration aren’t liable for the Benghazi attacks. (This exchange was omitted in reports from CNN and The Hill about Tapper’s interview with Bush.

Equally enlightening about the Benghazi select committee was the discussion on Meet the Press when Andrea Mitchell responded to Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) statement about Clinton relying on former advisor Sidney Blumenthal’s intelligence. “That is factually not correct… I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct,”Mitchell said. Pompeo tried to put down Mitchell—and failed—but he said nothing when Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) said that the committee doesn’t “know what this committee’s supposed to look for. Apart from damaging Hillary Clinton, it has no reason for existence.” The clip is worth watching.

September 12, 2015

Too Many Charter Schools for Profit Only

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
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In his push toward replacing all public schools with privately-managed, public-funded charter schools, Jeb Bush has become the sugar daddy of big business that makes big money off depriving young people of an education. The GOP presidential candidate opened the first charter school in the state when he was governor and increased it 56 percent annually during his first administration. By the time that he left office in 2007, the number had grown from 30 to 300 and since doubled to over 600. There would be more, but poor planning and management has caused the closure of another 308 schools so far this year. His first school closed in 2008.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 12, 2015

Only Trump Supports Women in Planned Parenthood Debacle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2015

Ignore Trump, Watch What the Other Candidates Do against Women

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 21, 2015

Pope’s Climate Encyclical Enrages Conservatives

Just when it seemed that Pope Francis couldn’t do more to offend U.S. conservatives—including Catholics—after he argued for income equality, he tackled the environment. The opening lines of his new encyclical, “Laudato Si (Praised Be),” come from a 13th-century poem, “Canticle of the Creatures,” written by his namesake. “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs,” the saint from Assisi wrote. The current pope chose his namesake because of his concern for the poor, his love of peace, and his care for creation.

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,” Francis wrote. “We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environment change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable that it is, can only precipitate disaster.”

He closed with progressive ideas that conservatives hate: a commitment to renewable energy, a binding agreement on carbon emissions, and an economy that throws away less and recycles more.

These are five important arguments in the pope’s document:

Climate change is real and “disturbing,” and people are the primary cause of it, primarily from “the great concentration of greenhouse gases released mainly as a result of human activity.”

Technology will not save the environment because “it’s based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.”

There is no excuse for denying reality or playing politics, especially from business-people and elected officials who use personal gain in “masking the problems or concealing their symptoms” and “pretending nothing will happen.”

The Bible was written by an environmentalist, and “Christians in their turn realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.”

Survival comes only from changing everything.

Pope Francis Climate

The 184-page encyclical infuriated 170 members of the House—56 percent of the entire membership—who oppose the belief from 97 percent of scientists that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it. In the Senate, 72 percent are climate deniers, including the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee. After a draft of the text was leaked, members of the conservative Heartland Institute traveled to Rome for a “pre-rebuttal,” and GOP presidential candidates attacked the pope for being political instead of religious. Jeb Bush, the Catholic who said that religion would guide his presidency, stated. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.” Another Catholic, Rick Santorum, who declared he was more qualified to discuss climate change than the pope, said,  “We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”

Defacto GOP leader Rush Limbaugh complained that Francis “doesn’t even disguise” his Marxist beliefs about global warming. Fox nework Greg Gutfeld supported Limbaugh after Juan Williams tried to explain to Gutfeld that being better stewards of the planet isn’t political. Williams said:

“I think the problem for you is that you put it in a box of pure politics, left and right. What about if the Pope is simply saying… we should do all we can to support God’s green earth. Is that so radical?”

Gutfeld responded, “Um, he has a Marxist background.” That was after Gutfeld called Pope Francis “the most dangerous person on the planet.” He added, “[Francis] wants to be a modern Pope. All he needs is dreadlocks and a dog with a bandana and he could be on Occupy Wall Street.” Gutfeld is even angry about the pope believing “that the Earth is overpopulated.” He continued, “Remember he said Catholics have to stop breeding like rabbits? Do you remember where that came from? That’s a Malthusian belief. And Malthusians believe that the Earth is overpopulated and it would be nice if there were a few billion people less. How does that happen? Global warming.” Malthusian belief is that population will be controlled by famine and disease; it seems the Gutfeld opposes the pope in order to have the controlling influence of climate change on population control.

Scientists disagree with the conservative politicians about the pope’s encyclical. Deborah Huntzinger, an assistant professor of climate sciences at Northern Arizona University, criticized only one part of the encyclical because it was simplistic, that how greenhouse gases warm the planet is more complicated. She did say that “the pope captures the science quite well.” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, noted that the only problem is that “Pope Francis is overly conservative [with respect to] the science in the encyclical” and understated some of the problems. “All of the increase in the carbon dioxide is due to fossil fuel burning and other human activities,” Mann said. Anthony Broccoli, a professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers University, said:

“Pope Francis doesn’t have to be a scientist to arrive at these conclusions. All he would have to do is consult the extensive reports on climate change that have been written by the world’s climate scientists in a process organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These reports have been written to inform policymakers and stakeholders about the state of the science and they are a reliable source of information.”

Columnist E.J. Dionne addressed the fallacy of conservative arguments that Francis is ignoring the past and presenting “radical new doctrines.” The encyclical frequently cites Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, neither one known for being liberal, “on the limits of markets and the urgency of environmental stewardship.” As the pope writes, “opinion makers, communications media and centers of power are far removed from the poor.” Hardly a radical statement or new to the Catholic religion. The focus of his paper is “that the world’s poor face the largest threat from climate change and that the world’s rich have a special obligation to deal with it.” In focusing on the “shared responsibility for others and the world,” he brings together the connection between the personal and the political.

If the Koch brothers succeed in buying conservative Catholics with huge donations to Catholic universities, conservative Catholics may turn farther away from the pope’s positions. In 2013 the Kochs give $1 million to launch the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America (CUA), dedicated to “principled entrepreneurship” where the school’s dean, Andrew Abela, opposes public-sector unions and argues that questioning global warming or climate change is a sin.” The donation brought a letter of protest from 50 Catholic educators regarding the ultra-conservative, anti-government, anti-workers-rights, climate-change-questioning, free-market-hyping tendencies of the Koch brothers. It read in part:

“The Koch brothers are billionaire industrialists who fund organizations that advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship.”

CUA leaders released a press release calling the educators’ letter “presumptuous.”

Last December, the Charles Koch Foundation gave Creighton University (Omaha, NE) funds for the new Institute for Economic Inquiry. The next month, the Foundation pledged another $3 million to CUA. The Koch brothers’ donations to a secular university have allowed them to veto most of the professors that the school wanted to hire with the donation. The Catholic Church opposes the Koch brothers’ positions on shrinking the social safety net, cutting taxes, weakening environmental regulations, ending the minimum wage, and busting unions. Conservatives argue that Pope Francis is not talking about capitalism as it is practiced in the U.S., or that he simply doesn’t understand economics. David Koch supports marriage equality and abortion rights; critics of the CUA gifts have pointed out the irony of the school’s accepting massive support from him when Catholic charities are not allowed to take money from any person or group that supports abortion rights or gay rights.

There was a time when the Pope was infallible and the President of the United States deserved respect. Now conservative Catholics have set themselves above the pope’s teaching, following only the restrictive teachings against abortion, contraception, and marriage equality. They have tried to make themselves gods.

The pope says, “We are not God” and should not act as if we are “usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot.”

 

June 17, 2015

Jeb for President? Part III

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 7:25 PM
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Jeb cartoon

jeb-bush-logo-hed-2015 with BushJeb (short for John Ellis Bush) Bush is trying to rebrand himself as a new man, a person disconnected from the Bush dynasty, but his logo is old-school, left over from his 1994 unsuccessful run for Florida governor. The lack of last name didn’t go unnoticed. David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote, “The most important thing about the Jeb logo isn’t the exclamation point that is there. It’s the last name that isn’t there.” At least, the logo is producing a lot of fun about Bush’s declaration of his candidacy.

jeb1 logoIn declaring his candidacy—finally!—Jeb Bush said, “I’ll break away from the GOP pack.” He won’t escape the Bush name, but his personal family scandals show that he’s already separated from the other GOP candidates:

1994: Bush’s eldest son, George P., broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house, fled the father, and then returned to drive his SUV into their front lawn. The ex said that young George had “been a problem” since the breakup.

1999: Bush’s wife, Columba, was fined for declaring only $500 worth of goods to U.S. Customs on her return from Paris where her purchases were almost $20,000. (Bush was Florida governor between 1999 and 2007.)

2000: Jeb, Jr. was caught having sex with a 17-year-old girl in a mall parking lot.  The police reported the incident of sexual misconduct, but he wasn’t arrested.

2002: Daughter Noelle, 24, was arrested for prescription fraud while trying to buy a tranquilizer, Xanax. In rehab, she was caught with a “white rock like substance” thought to be crack cocaine. Between 1995 and 2002, she had racked up seven speeding tickets, five other traffic violations, and involvement in three wrecks.

2005: Son Jeb Jr., 21, was arrested in Texas for public intoxication and resisting arrest.

Throughout Jeb’s political career, he has touted his business acumen. Recently in Iowa, he boasted that he’s actually “signed the front side of a paycheck,” defining himself as superior to all those drudge blue collar and government workers such as teachers and firefighters who only endorse checks that someone else signs. Much of his ability to sign the front of the check comes from the name that doesn’t appear on his logo, and much of his dealings can be described as “shady.”

1986: Camilo Padreda, past counterintelligence officer for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, hired Bush to find tenants for office buildings financed with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-backed loans. Bush ignored the fact that four years earlier Padreda had been indicted for embezzling $500,000 from a Texas savings and loan. After the charges were dropped, Padreda pleaded guilty to defrauding HUD of millions of dollars.

1986: Jeb Bush convinced Health Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler to intervene in a federal regulation stating that no HMO could get more than 50 percent of its revenue from Medicare. Thanks to his intervention, Miguel Recarey, long-time business associate of Tampa organized-crime figure Santos Trafficante, managed to get away with embezzlement of government funds. Recarey’s International Medical Centers, the largest health maintenance organization for the elderly in the U.S., had been supported from $1 billion in payments from the Medicare program before it went bankrupt in 1988 and left $222 million in unpaid bills. Recarey fled the U.S. facing three separate indictments for labor racketeering, illegal wiretapping, and Medicare fraud Medicare fraud and is an international fugitive.

1988: Recarey’s company gave Jeb Bush’s real estate company $75,000 to help it find a site for a new corporate headquarters.

1988: Bush used White House ties to form a company with GOP donor David Eller to market water pumps manufactured by Moving Water Industries, another Eller business, to foreign countries. In 1992, at the behest of MWI, the Export-Import Bank approved $74 million in US-backed loans to Nigeria to buy water pumps from Eller’s company. The Justice Department later alleged in a 2002 civil suit that about $28 million of those loans were used to bribe a Nigerian official.

1990: Bush defaulted on a loan from Broward Federal Savings and Loan. He and his partner Armondo Codina were required to pay only $500,000 of the $4.5 million loan while retaining ownership of the building that had been the collateral. In 1991, Bush and Codina sold the building for $8 million.The FDIC sued Broward, using Bush’s loan as an example of the bank’s negligent lending practices that cost the taxpayers $285 million.

2007: Jeb Bush joined InnoVida as a $15,000-a month-consultant, leading to board membership and stock options. The company’s CEO, Claudio Osorio, was sent to prison in 2013 for over 12 years for a $40-million investment fraud and an additional $10 million from a federal government program between 2006 and 2011 to build 500 homes in Haiti after its devastating earthquake in January 2010–a project that Osorio touted to promote his company, but which never broke ground. Bush did pay back over half the $470,000 paid him for three years as a consultant in a secret agreement in 2011. He claimed that he had vetted the company, but years of wrongdoing on the part of Osorio and other top officials were obvious. [obvious] Nine months before Bush joined the company, it was evicted from its factory space for not paying rent.

2007: Five months after he left the governor’s mansion in 2007, Bush joined Lehman Brothers as a “consultant.” Bush’s job was to go to Mexico and convince (trick) a telecom mogul into making a large investment. It failed. Within a year, Lehman went broke, leaving Florida with about $1 billion worth of bad mortgage investments.

2013: Bush pushed states to approve fracking while failing to tell them about his part-ownership in FracStar Logistics, a company that provides sand for fracking. At the time, it was raising $40 million to acquire fracking wells. The company’s name has been changed to Proforce Energy Services; Bush’s son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, helped found FracStar, and Jeb is co-owner of the managing group, De Soto Partners, with his son Jeb, Jr.

2014: Bush blasted President Obama for normalizing relations with Cuba while he made over one million dollars a year from Barclays, the bank that had to settle criminal charges for violating sanctions that included Cuba. In 2010, Barclays agreed to forfeit $298 million to the U.S. for illegal transactions on behalf of customers from Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and other sanctioned countries. Bush started at Barclays in 2008, after these actions. After Bush’s decision to run for president, he resigned his Barclays position.

Now Bush is hoping that his name will get him Florida, yet University of Florida political scientist Daniel A. Smith found that “nearly three-quarters of Florida’s 12.9 million currently registered voters have never even seen Bush’s name on a ballot.” Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio, another GOP presidential candidate, is far better known in the state. Then there’s Bush’s need to overcome his being the son of a failed president and the brother of a colossal failure of a president.

Jeb says that he’s running on his record as Florida governor.  He increased mandatory minimum sentences for juvenile offenders and kept harsh sentences for non-violent drug offenders despite his regular use of marijuana as a teen. In 2002, he opposed a ballot measure that would have let drug offenders enter treatment programs instead of prison. He eliminated over ten percent of jobs in state government by privatizing public services such as foster care, adoption services, legal representation for death row prisoners, human resources, and state parks.  At the same time, he cut billions of dollars in tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest in the state. While he was in office, the state debt went from $15 billion to over $23 billion. He initiated the murderous Stand Your Ground law, shamed women, accelerated the death penalty, privatized schools and prisons–the list goes on and on. (Check out Part II of this series.)

Bush is pro theocracy, war, death penalty, gun, privatization, prisons, racism, deception, fraud, pollution, killing, and control of elections and people’s lives. He’s also anti-woman, anti-education, anti-environmental protection, and anti-affirmative action.

Last year, Jeb’s mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, said that her son would be “by far the best qualified man, but…we’ve had enough Bushes.” She was half right. Others may agree. In March, Bush was at 21 percent in the Washington Post/ABC poll, eight points above his closest rival, Scott Walker. By May he lost over half the percentage in the same poll, tied at 10 percent with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and behind Walker and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), tied at 11 percent. Another poll puts him below Ben Carson.

CORRECTION published Sunday, June 14, 2009: A photo cutline on Page A11 Saturday should have said former President George H. W. Bush poses with his sons former President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. It was a photographer's error. -- Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: -- George H.W. Bush is flanked by his sons George W. Bush and (Neil Bush)* after completing a parachute jump in Kennebunkport on Friday, June 12, 2009 for his 85th birthday. -- Correct id: JEB BUSH* (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

CORRECTION published Sunday, June 14, 2009: A photo cutline on Page A11 Saturday should have said former President George H. W. Bush poses with his sons former President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. It was a photographer’s error. — Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: — George H.W. Bush is flanked by his sons George W. Bush and (Neil Bush)* after completing a parachute jump in Kennebunkport on Friday, June 12, 2009 for his 85th birthday. — Correct id: JEB BUSH* (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

[If you need a bit of humor after all this info about Jeb, check out satirist Andy Lebowitz’s latest column: “Scientists Believe They Have Isolated Gene for Failure.”]

June 16, 2015

Jeb for President? Part II

king bushJeb Bush’s plan for the half of 2015: raise tens of millions of dollars, separate himself from his brother’s presidency, win conservatives, and become the Republican who will win the GOP nomination. Thus far, he’s raised the money. Asked about his brother, he waffles between supporting him and trying to find a way to please people who disagree with George W. Bush’s Iraq War. Conservatives still don’t like him, and he has appeared incompetent through answers to questions and consistent flip-flopping.

Last week he changed his campaign manager to the more negative and conservative Danny Diaz, meaning that Bush may have reconsidered whether he’ll still campaign “joyfully.” Diaz’s participation in Bush II’s campaign is another connection between Jeb and Dubya. One Bush ally said that Diaz will signal that “the culture of the Bush operation will now be a Pickett’s Charge engagement campaign with his main opponents.” Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg lost most of its soldiers and contributed to the loss of the Civil War for the South.

The Bush name lacks the gleam it once had. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “He just hasn’t met the expectation level of what we expected of a Bush.” Sixteen years ago, Bush’s brother had over half the House GOP caucus—114 Republicans—on board with endorsements. The House has more GOP members in 2015, but Bush has only two dozen committed to him and no senators. Bush’s flip-flopping doesn’t seem to bother GOP congressional members, however, as much as his seemingly moderate views on immigration and education.

Bush may be sued for his fund-raising style.  He waited seven months after forming  a leadership political action committee in lieu of an “exploratory” committee to declare his candidacy while he’s acted like a presidential candidate. Without officially declaring as a candidate, he could send “anonymous donations” into his Super PACS, both named Right to Rise.

According to the New York Times, “federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate and thus subject to the spending and disclosure restrictions.” Technically, Bush sidestepped that law, but unethical behavior has never bothered him. As Florida governor, he engineered a vast voter fraud and intimidation program to tip the scales in favor of his brother George W. Jeb, and Jeb is back gaming the system to make more money from corporate interests.

Jeb Bush has declared that brother, George W, is his senior advisor. That’s the Bush with a foundation accepting undisclosed donations from millionaires while he was president. One big donor, Dallas oilman and major SMU supporter Edwin L. Cox, had his son pardoned by former President George H.W. Bush. Other donations to the Bush Foundation come from foreign governments such as the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. With assets of $47 million and another $3 million a year from undisclosed donations, the George Bush Presidential Library can funnel campaign and influence money—even illegal donations from foreign governments—to Jeb Bush with no record or transparency.

Jeb’s past shows the same sort of dodgy dealings in politics:

1989: Bush successfully lobbied his father, then president, for the release of Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch, who allegedly orchestrated the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people in 1976 as well as other terrorist attacks. In a federal prison on an immigration violation and dubbed an “unrepentant terrorist” by then-Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Bosch was a cause célèbre for Miami’s influential Cuban population—a voting bloc that Jeb used to launch his political career.

1994: Despite Bush’s strident advocacy to keep people in a vegetative state alive and prevent abortion, his first campaign for Florida government promoted the acceleration of the death penalty enforcement in the state by limiting death row inmates to only one appeal.

1996: Bush pushed for charter schools in Florida. Providing money to religious schools was later ruled unconstitutional, but after he was elected governor, he made sure that public money went to developers to build schools, free of public oversight and collective-bargaining agreements, that drained money from public schools. Despite a law that charter schools had to be operated by non-profit groups, for-profit companies were managing three-quarters of the state’s newly approved charter schools by 2002. The next year he signed a bill that removed any cap on the number of charter schools. Although Bush claims to have no profit from these schools, his allies do. Bush sticks to Common Core because it makes money for his friends.

1999: In his first year as Florida governor, Bush signed an executive order to end affirmative action in education and business after calling these policies “stupid and destructive.” Since then, Black enrollment in universities has dropped by almost half in some of the schools while the Black population in the state remains stable at 20 percent.

1999: Bush signed a law making Florida the first state to fund anti-choice initiatives through the sale of “Choose Life” license plates. He also supported “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) that provide women with medically inaccurate information—for example, abortion makes people go insane—and fail to tell women about the full range of their reproductive health options.

2000: During the recount for the presidential election, Bush made 95 calls to the George W. Bush campaign while his secretary of state and George W.’s campaign co-chair, Katherine Harris, lost or spoiled ballots from hundreds of thousands of Black voters.

2001: Bush gave Bsafe Online, an American Family Association subsidiary, $600,000 of tax money to block Internet users from information about LGBT identities. Yet he invested $1.3 million in state pension fund money in Movie Gallery, a video rental company with a wide selection of pornographic films.

2003: Thirteen years and many court cases after Terri Schiavo went into a vegetative state, Bush was instrumental in passing “Terri’s Law,” demanding that her feeding tube be reinserted.  It was another two years before she was allowed to physically die.

2003: Bush initiated the dumping of tons of toxic waste by the Koch brothers company, Georgia-Pacific, into the Florida St. Johns River after he and his cabinet, over the objection of then Attorney General Charlie Crist, gave a preliminary approval to the GP pipeline from its Palatka paper mill to the river. Within the next two years, GP moved forward without a constitutionally-required notice and fair warning for a wetlands permit and an easement. Law required that the public Trustees carefully consider the costs and benefits and the money savings by GP from the river dumping, but it was never done. No compensation has been made for the areas covered with toxic waste and the diminished swimming and fishing use in the affected area. GP got its easement in 2009 with no notice to citizens and environmental groups. After citizens sued and a Bush-supported court rubber stamped Bush’s actions, the case went to the 1st District Court of Appeals.

2003: Bush asked a court to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a developmentally disabled rape victim despite an earlier decision by the Florida Department of Children and Families to ask the court to appoint a guardian for the baby only after the woman gives birth.

2005: Bush is responsible for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law through his support of corporate-controlled ALEC. The media described it as a license to hunt and kill.

2006: Bush asked the Florida GOP legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot repealing a constitutional provision separating church and state. The legislature refused.

2009: Bush declared himself Hispanic on his 2009 voter registration. In 2012, Republicans accused Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) of misrepresenting herself as Native American.

2010: Bush and his education reform organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, created a group of school superintendents and other high-ranking officials called “Chiefs for Change” to advance the Florida model of education, which emphasizes accountability and emphasized giving schools letter grades based on performance, especially standardized test scores. One of the original eight chiefs was accused of inflating the grade of a lackluster charter school funded by a Republican donor. The office of another was caught manipulating test score data.

In October, a New Mexico advocacy group filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education failed to disclose thousands of dollars it paid to bring public school superintendents, education officials, and lawmakers to the group’s events, where they had private “VIP” meetings with the foundation’s for-profit ed-tech company sponsors. The complaint alleges that Bush’s foundation disguised travel payments as “scholarships” to hide the fact that the nonprofit was facilitating lobbying between big corporations and public officials.

2015: Bush’s first fundraiser for his PAC was hosted by Charles Davis who held a top job at an insurance brokerage sued by the state of Florida for swindling clients while Bush was governor.

2015: One of Bush’s emails reveals that he closely coordinated with the Florida legislature to schedule Florida’s 2016 presidential primary in a way most favorable for himself.

2015: Bush’s hire for his PAC’s chief technology officer, Ethan Czahor, tweeted about women being “sluts” and joked about being ogled by gay men at the gym. Jeb solved the problem by having the tweets deleted.

Bush promises to deliver a four percent annual economic growth. He has no method; he said that 4 is “a nice round number.” He cited his record as governor—the one that ended just as the housing bubble popped and wiped out 900,000 of Jeb’s 1.3 million jobs created while he was in office. The bubble filled state coffers, Jeb took credit and left office before the disaster, and now the candidate wants to be viewed as an economic genius.

There’s much more here. The last part of the Jeb Bush iceberg tomorrow.

Next Page »

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