Nel's New Day

May 2, 2013

Ayotte Doesn’t Want More Laws

In the past, feminists have had discussions about whether it is against feminism to oppose women who are against feminist policy. There are some out there who think that a feminist approach is to support any woman in leadership—let’s say Sarah Palin—no matter how much they want to destroy the rights of women.

I’m one of those feminists who think that support should go to those who want to create equality between males and females. That means that I don’t support Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The country has been in a buzz after she was the first senator north of Virginia to vote against background checks. But that’s not my gripe today although I haven’t forgiven her vote on that issue either.

With women making 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, some Congressional lawmakers support the an equal pay act that would try to rectify this inequality. But not Kelly Ayotte. During one of her town hall meetings during this week’s recess, she flatly stated that Congress had done enough for equal pay for the two genders. As everyone who dodges voting yes on laws, she used the tired excuse that government just needs to enforce existing laws.

A member of the audience asked Ayotte the following:

“My grandmother, who was an extremely intelligent woman, trained many, many men who then became her boss, and so on and so forth. [She] never received a pension, never, um, was really paid what she was worth. And I was disappointed that you voted against the Equal Pay Act, but maybe there was something in the bill that you thought would be detrimental to the economy or whatever. But I was curious if you could explain your philosophy about equal pay and how, maybe, you could suggest something that we could all agree upon so that women would stop making 75 cents for every dollar a man makes …”

Ayotte answered:

“We have existing laws — Title VII, um, Lilly Ledbetter, all those existing protections in place — that, I believe, enforce and provide that people doing equal jobs are, certainly in this country, should receive equal pay. So, uh, that bill, in my view, didn’t add — in fact I think it created a lot of additional burdens that would have been hard, um, to make it more difficult for job creators to create jobs… The reason that I voted against that specific bill is that, I looked at it, and there were already existing laws that need to be enforced and can be enforced and I didn’t feel like adding that layer was going to help us better get at the equal pay issue.”

Ayotte ignored the fact that the pay gap exists because lawmakers are trying to close it. It is true that the pay gap narrowed after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but progress on the pay gap stalled in the 1990s. It’s been almost flat since then.

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The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was necessary because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed earlier protections in connection with pay inequity. It’s different from the Paycheck Fairness Act. Ayotte didn’t address the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would definitely not “make it more difficult for job creators to create jobs,” as she suggests.

Because employers can avoid liability under the Equal Pay Act, there is a need to ensure that employers’ pay decisions have legitimate reasons to pay one employee more than another, such as “education, training, or experience,” instead of arbitrary justification. The Act also forbids employers from retaliation against employees who try to find out how their pay compares to wages that their colleagues get.

Ayotte supported employers’ rights to not have rational reasons for paying female workers less. She gave employers the right to retaliate against employees who try to find out if they are being fairly treated.

Ayotte is still struggling with justifying her vote against a background check for people buying guns. The Manchin-Toomey background check proposal would not have created a national firearms registry. It actually would have strengthened current law barring the creation of any such registry and stiffened penalties against any official who violated or tried to violate the prohibition. But Ayotte seems to know as little about the bill she voted against as she does about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This is the reason that she gave for voting against background checks:

“I will tell you in terms of a universal background check, as it’s been framed, I have a lot of concerns about that leading to a registry that will lead to a privacy situation for lawful firearms owners.”

New Hampshire voters are not happy with Ayotte. When a man in a town hall meeting asked her why she voted against background checks, several of the 250 people in the audience applauded.

In Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is still struggling with the response to his voting against the background check. First, he said the polls went down after his vote because of the polls were wrong, and then the next day he said that he just looked like “pond scum.” Yesterday on an interview on KJZZ radio, he switched back to blaming the polls for making him look unpopular:

“There was a famous PPP poll just a couple of days ago that — the five Republicans who voted against this, you know, supposedly our poll number have dropped dramatically. And I’ve no doubt they have because of the way the poll is structured. It said, I believe, ‘Do you believe that Jeff Flake voted against background checks?’ Now somebody who got that poll could just as easily assume that I voted to repeal current background checks. And so background checks are popular, but I believe that people recognize that universal background checks, that’s a little more difficult thing to define.”

He tried the optimistic approach when he said, “I think in the end, people understand that you’re there, you read the legislation, you try to make the situation better.”

For the record, the PPP poll asked, “Does Jeff Flake’s vote against requiring background checks make you more or less likely to support him for re-election, or does it not make a difference?” Nineteen percent of respondents answered “more likely,” 52 percent said “less likely” and 24 percent said “no difference.”

So Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) think that we don’t need to make any laws about guns because criminals won’t respect them, and Ayotte thinks that we already have enough laws to protect people in guns and fair pay. They should give their salary (equal between the males and females) back to the government and go back to their home states. They should let people who want to legislate laws stay in Washington to do that.

April 30, 2013

Background Check Votes Influence Voters

The NRA has protected conservative voters for decades, but that era may be coming to a close. Since the GOP senators voted against background checks for gun buyers, Public Policy Polling shows a serious drop for their approval ratings while recording spikes for senators that supported the bill. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) went down 16 points, and Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) ratings shrank 18 points from positive to negative. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) got a 52-percent rating of “less likely to support for re-election,” and 46 percent of his constituents said the same thing about Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). In those four states, at least 60 percent of voters support background checks.

Once considered by Mitt Romney for his vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) lost 15 points, and the NRA is bailing her out by paying for advertising. Almost all of the loss in support came from independent and moderate voters, vital to the candidates of the party that is also rapidly shedding voters.

Ayotte is also having trouble in her town hall meetings during the recess. In Warren (NH), Erica Lafferty, whose mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was killed in Newtown (CT), referred to an earlier meeting with Ayotte after the senator had voted against background checks when she addressed Ayotte:

“You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t more important than that.”

Quinnipiac saw ratings for Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), a bill co-sponsor, go up a net 7 points. Ayotte’s senior colleague, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) saw her approval ratings also rise 7 points after she voted in favor of background checks.

As for the legislature, 65 percent of voters wanted the bill passed, including 45 percent of Republicans. That was a Gallup poll, known for running a lower percentage than reality, which means the number of voters wanting the bill is probably higher.

Murkowski had been one of the most popular senators in the country; her vote lost her credibility with both Democrats and Republicans.  Her junior senator, Mark Begich (D), didn’t suffer as much, but he still dropped 8 points after the vote.

flakeOn his 100th day in office, Flake has become the most unpopular senator, with a 32 percent approval rating—even below Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who had held the title of “most unpopular sitting Senator” before the vote. In addition to going against the 70 percent of Arizona voters who want background checks, Flake sent a handwritten note to the mother of a son killed last summer at the movie theater in Aurora (CO) that he would “strengthen” background checks the week before he voted against them.  

Yesterday Flake laughed off the PPP survey, saying: “The only accurate poll they’ll do is the one the week before the election, so they can do well in terms of how they’re rated.” He might benefit from reading some editorial comments about Congress’s cowardice.

Flake did have second thoughts about his attack on the polls. Later yesterday he wrote on his Facebook page, “Nothing like waking up to a poll saying you’re the nation’s least popular senator. Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum.” He’s probably right: pond scum has a purpose.

brewerAnother piece of pond scum came out of Arizona this week. In the hopes of getting guns off the streets, Tucson held a buy-back event and destroyed the ones that they purchased. Arizona legislators didn’t like this, so they passed a bill, passed by Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday, that requires the bought-back guns to be sold.  The lawmakers tried to make people believe that destroying the guns is a waste of taxpayer resources. Therefore Arizona has made police departments into retailers, just putting these weapons back on the street.

We have to remember that Brewer is the same governor who signed off on the sale of the state’s capitol building before leasing it back at a higher cost.

Stupid doesn’t stop at the state line, however. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said that Congress should try to stop terrorists from buying guns. He said that doing this would this restriction would only reduce “the number of firearms nationwide” and undermine the rights of law-abiding Americans.

“Well, the terrorist, they are a part of, not by definition part of a criminal, because they are terrorists, but I would say the same thing is true for terrorists that is for criminals. And that is, if someone in the United States of America or any other place too the criminal element or the terrorist element they will be able to get those.”

Two important pieces of Inhofe’s argument: there is no reason to make laws because criminals won’t follow them, and terrorists aren’t criminals. That’s why al-Qaeda likes the United States. As spokesman Adam Yahiye Gadahn said in 2011:

“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

If Inhofe truly believes that there is no use in making laws, the “lawmaker” is committing fraud by collecting his salary.

The same year, 2011, the GOP on the House Judiciary Committee, lobbied by the NRA, voted down an amendment to prevent people on the federal terrorist watch list from buying guns, even though a Government Accountability Office had found that suspected terrorists bought firearms and explosives from licensed dealers 1,300 times since 2004. Without this law, the older brother suspected of the Boston marathon bombing could have legally purchased up to 50 pounds of gunpowder and any number of guns legally just by going to a state adjacent to Massachussetts.

Peter Loewy, a retired Navy air traffic controller, self-identified marksman, and member of such organizations as the NRA and the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, wrote about how to solve the gun purchase problem by using “available technology and a grass-roots movement.”

Referencing the chips found in most electronics today—cell phones, cameras, thumb drives, newer cars, etc.—he recommended putting these in all guns. As he wrote, this technology is inexpensive and common, even appearing in many animals.

“Such chips could be affixed to the frame of every firearm and could include the name of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the serial number, the caliber and any other pertinent data. When the manufacturer sells the firearm, information about the sale would be written to the chip, as would the information about all subsequent sales. Firearms already in circulation could be allowed a reasonable time in which to have a chip installed. At the time of installation, information about the current legal owner of the firearm could be written to the chip along with firearm identification information.

“This would accomplish two things. First, the ownership history of any firearm in the possession of law enforcement could be quickly and easily obtained and compliance with legal requirements verified. Second, we would avoid the creation of a central database that would constitute gun and gun owner registration — the shoals upon which proposed legislation has foundered in the past.”

He continued by citing the benefits of such a plan. Because gun owners might take greater care in storing their weapons, fewer criminals and children would find these accessible. Society would be safer, and the Second Amendment wouldn’t be violated.

Can you hear that noise? It’s the sound of NRA and gun manufacturers screaming!

November 5, 2012

‘Life Is Better Than Four Years Ago’

Tomorrow we have a choice between the 21st century or the 19th century—moving forward into greater income equality for people in this country or a Gilded Age that rewards only the wealthiest. Many of the past blogs in Nel’s New Day have concentrated on Romney’s faults: today’s blog is about Obama’s amazing accomplishments during the past four years, despite conservative obstructionists in the Congress who have spent all their political capital to destroy the president.

When I started writing this, I thought that I could easily condense the information into the average length of a blog. Boy, was I wrong! I have taken so much of what happened in the last four years for granted. When people ask if the country is better off than four years ago, give them these reasons. For a great—and much longer—description, check out this article on 50 of Obama’s achievements.

Perhaps the president’s most notable accomplishment was to prevent another Great Depression. Eighteen months after he started on that project, he again rescued the country from economic destruction after the conservatives proposed raising the debt ceiling and therefore not paying the nation’s debts.

Currently the United States is one of a handful of countries not mired in a double-dip recession. In fact, the U.S. has netted over 5 million new jobs during the last 32 months, compared to the 818,000 jobs lost in just the last month of George W. Bush’s second term, the largest loss in one month during the past 60 years. Part of the jobs came from the stimulus bill, much maligned by the Republicans who wanted President Obama—and the country–to achieve nothing. The stimulus also insourced thousands of job from overseas companies that moved factories back to the U.S. In addition to the advantage of the jobs, these businesses rented empty facilities from the government. Blade Dynamics now produces wind turbines for green energy in the U.S. This in addition to saving the auto industry.

His second most notable accomplishment is his sweeping health care reforms that moved the country toward universal health coverage, as it allows children under 26 to stay on their parents’ policies; lowered drug costs for people on; provided free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; banned lifetime limits on insurance payments; and mandated the denial of coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, adding this mandate to all people in 2014. Four years ago, 50 million Americans could not get health insurance; now 36 million Americans have access to healthcare for the first time, over a million young Americans are now covered on their parents’ policy, and all women have access to contraception and preventive healthcare, with no copay.

The third primary achievement was unraveling our knotted involvement in Middle East conflicts, first by taking 146,000 military members out of Iraq and then by winding down Afghanistan while keeping us out of Libya and other countries hit by the “Arab Spring” revolutions. In Libya, President Obama gathered international backing for airstrikes during the uprising, thus keeping American military forces in a background role. The president also negotiated a much tougher regime of multilateral economic sanctions on Iran. The killing goes on in Syria, but the administration is working to identify and support moderate insurgent forces there.

With no preemptive declarations of war as George W. Bush did, the president helped repair America’s badly damaged reputation around the world. Of 14 nations, 10 gave the U.S. higher favorability in 2012 than in 2008; the higher ratings were largely in Europe and Asia while understandably the lower four were from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The average increase across all 14 countries was 7.4 points.

The president reversed Bush administration policies that chipped away at minorities’ voting rights and fought anti-immigration laws. When conservatives would not pass a Dream Act to allow entry into citizenship for young people who were brought into the U.S. as children, the president issued an executive order to start this process.

Discrimination against LGBT people began to crack apart during President Obama’s first term. Fifteen years after the legislation of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule that drove  gays and lesbians out of the military, the law was overturned. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act that prevents marriage equality still exists, but the Obama administration does not support this odious act and does support the Respect for Marriage Act that would create federal marriage equality.

If the president wins another four-year term, economists predict further improvement. During the disastrous “bubble” leading to the country’s economic crash, so much building occurred that this industry largely collapsed. At the same time, the excessive household debt created a lack of demand. Economists generally agree that housing booms produce a robust recovery and the lack of demand in buying brings down the economy.

Peter Fagan, in a Bloomberg opinion piece, wrote, “The economy is on course to enjoy faster growth in the next four years as the headwinds that have held it back turn into tailwinds. Consumers are spending more and saving less after reducing household debt to the lowest since 2003. Home prices are rebounding after falling more than 30 percent from their 2006 highs. And banks are increasing lending after boosting equity capital by more than $300 billion since 2009.” He indicated that this would happen with either candidate being elected, but I think that he forgot to take into consideration that Mitt Romney would take all the money and give it to the wealthy.

The Republicans have refused to give the president credit for many of his policies. While the GOP is claiming that he is destroying small business, he pushed through more tax write-offs for new equipment and temporary tax cuts for hiring the unemployed.

In a speech given at the Democratic National Convention, Jim Sinegal, former CEO, co-founder, and current board member of Costco, stated that companies need “a president who takes the long view and makes the tough decisions.” He added, “We don’t want one set of rules for ourselves and another for our employees. Some of my friends in corporate America say that all they need is a government that gets off the backs of businesses … But I think they get it all wrong. Business needs a president who has covered businesses’ backs.”

If conservatives had not blocked the president, he would have a jobs plan for school renovations, repair projects for roads and bridges, aid to states, and more. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiated reform of the derivatives market, and imposed higher capital requirements for banks. It’s an incomplete action, again because of the way that conservatives blocked him.

Obama critics claim that the president has not presented an agenda for his second year. The conservatives have not room when one considers their own candidate. Even more, these critics are wrong. President Obama’s second-term agenda includes a budget deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases; a detailed deficit-reduction proposal to reduce deficit by $3.8 trillion within a decade; implementation of a new health insurance plan; the continued push for clean energy; climate change legislation; upgrading of the nation’s infrastructure; retooling the educational system and training people for well-paying jobs; and new campaign financing system to curtail billionaires’ and corporations’ power.

“The die is cast for a much stronger recovery,” wrote Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics Inc. He added, “Political uncertainty will abate and hiring and economic growth will revive by this time next year. By 2014, growth will be in full swing as the construction cycle definitively turns up. Real GDP growth is expected to approach a 4% annual pace, with job growth above 250,000 per month and unemployment steadily declining. The economy should return to full employment—defined as a 5.8% unemployment rate—by early 2016.”

“If Mitt Romney defeats President Obama in his bid for reelection on Tuesday, it will mark the success of one of the most deeply cynical political campaigns in American history.—Juan Williams, Fox News political analyst, panelist, and substitute host 

Latest Attempt to Keep Democrats from Voting: Robocalls that Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), U.S. Senate candidate in a tightly contested race, made last weekend to registered Democrats gave the wrong poll place locations, some as far away as 11 miles from the correct one. Other Flake calls sounded as if a church was asking them to vote for him. This followed the misinformation from the Maricopa County Elections Department distributed not once but twice to newly registered voters. The printed documents listed Nov. 6 in English and Nov. 8 in Spanish. Maricopa County is the largest country in Arizona and includes the Phoenix metropolitan area.

And the Opposite: People registered in a federally-declared disaster county in New York may vote on an affidavit ballot at any poll site in the state and mandates that the ballots be sent to the board of elections where the voter is registered. [In Ohio and Florida, voters are still standing in line up to eight hours to vote. Something needs to be done at the federal level to guarantee that people will be allowed to vote.]

In less than an hour (midnight), polls will open in Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, two small New Hampshire towns that compete every election to cast the first ballots. Otherwise polls start opening at 6:00 am (EST). If you haven’t voted, do it! Here’s a bit of humor to get you going.

March 7, 2012

Limbaugh Flap Continues

The Republicans are beginning to figure out that the birth control issue will be huge in the fall election, especially after Rush Limbaugh’s vile comments about a Georgetown University law student. Even one senator who won’t run for election for another four years had second thoughts about voting yes on the Blunt Amendment, the one that said employers and insurance companies don’t need to provide insurance for anything based on personal reasons. With this bill becoming law, owners who are faith healers could tell their waitpeople or hotel maids or retail clerks that they cannot have any insurance but should instead go to the church’s faith healer.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) won her election almost two years ago, despite a Tea Party member running as the Republican candidate and Murkowski running as a write-in. The state even demanded that her name be spelled correctly for the votes to count. With her opposition either far right or Democrat, Murkowski picked up moderate votes, many of them women.

Julia O’Malley of The News Tribune (Anchorage) recently interviewed Murkowski. “She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn’t line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote,” O’Malley wrote.

Yet Murkowski ignored the women who voted for her, the ones who believed they should receive free birth control. Instead the senator voted yes to allow employers and insurance companies to remove insurance coverage for hormone treatment. She claimed that she was supporting religious freedom, which is what everyone says in opposing birth control for women, but she told O’Malley that she would not have voted for the amendment if she could re-vote. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” Murkowski said.

During her campaign, people handed out plastic bracelets with Murkowski written on them so that voters would know how to spell it right. Wearing a gold bracelet hat looks like those plastic ones, the senator said, “I got there [the Senate] because Alaskans took a little bit of risk on me.” O’Malley wonders now if the senator will take risks for the people of Alaska or just apologize for her votes.

Murkowski was concerned about the political ramifications of the Blunt amendment. “The wind had shifted, and Republicans didn’t have enough sense to get off of it,” she said. Like other Republicans, Murkowski worries about the public taking note about the fact that her party is on the wrong side of the birth control issue. She also takes issue with her colleagues in tippy-toeing around Rush Limbaugh’s recent bullying of Sandra Fluke. Murkowski declared his recent remarks “incendiary” and called on political leaders in her party to join her in openly criticizing Limbaugh.

“The comments made by Limbaugh, I was just stunned,” she added. “In the end, I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Including Republicans? “Everybody,” she responded. “What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.”

Instead of dealing up front with Limbaugh, Republicans are backing off on the entire birth control issue. “I think the Senate already took action and we’ve got a lot else on our plate,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who is running for Senate. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said through his spokesman that it was up to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton to determine when the legislation would move forward. This statement contradicts an earlier declaration that declared full steam ahead on the anti-contraception bill. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s anti-contraceptive bill has been around for several months and may languish for several more until it just dissipates.

The Republican leadership has been unbelievably weak in addressing his unpardonable behavior. In his column, Eugene Robinson said it best: “So let’s get this straight: These guys [Republican presidential candidates] want us to believe they’re ready to face down Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Un, the Taliban, and what’s left of al-Qaeda. Yet they’re so scared of a talk-radio buffoon that they ignore or excuse an eruption of venom that some of Limbaugh’s advertisers … find inexcusable.”

Even conservative pundits recognize how pathetic the Republican leadership has been since the Limbaugh diatribe against Fluke. George Will told George Stephanopoulos, “The Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

Memories are short, and the general election is eight months away. This issue, however, may not disappear in time to save the conservatives.

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