Nel's New Day

May 21, 2013

Humanity Missing for Oklahoma

The first stories out of a disaster—nature, evil, human stupidity, etc.—after expressing how horrible it is, are about the wonderful way that people step up to the plate, the way that they help those in need. That’s what makes America, people are proud of saying.

Headlines today are filled with the tragic devastation of yesterday’s tornado in Oklahoma. But the numbers of deaths and photos of destroyed buildings are not the real story. The news that should be sent out in every newspaper is the one about the group that doesn’t want help the victims, the group that rejects the philosophy of “humanity first.” That group is the U.S. Congress GOP.

For decades, federal disaster relief was automatic, with bipartisan support after disasters in communities across the nation. But recently, especially after the Tea Party gained their current status in Congress, many conservatives consider emergency resources only after Democrats cut the same amount from another part of the budget. The demand is ideological, not economic, but that doesn’t change their minds.

Thirty-six senators, including Oklahoma Republicans Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, voted against providing relief in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy that killed 161 people and destroyed billions of dollars of property in 24 states less than seven months ago.

Yesterday, a tornado in an Oklahoma City suburb, two days ago killed 24 people and injured at least 240 people, 60 of them children following deadly tornadoes last weekend. These tornadoes are just the beginning of the season: 53 million people can be at risk because of these weather patterns.

Oklahoma currently ranks third in the nation after Texas and California in terms of total federal disaster and fire declarations. The population of Oklahoma is just over 3.8 million, whereas Texas has over 26 million and California, over 38 million.

President Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma following severe snowstorms this year in late February. In January of 2007, Coburn urged federal officials to speed disaster relief aid after the state faced a major ice storm, and the next year Inhofe praised the emergency relief given to 24 Oklahoma counties after severe weather.

Now Coburn is again demanding the callous “offsets,” cuts to the budget before tornado victims can receive FEMA funding for disaster relief. This is a pattern for him: he pushed for offsets after a terrorist blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 680 others.

At the same time that he refuses any relief without offsets, Coburn issued this statement: “As the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.” He also said that it was “insensitive to even talk about” budgeting for relief funding now. “It just shows the crassness of Washington versus the sensitivity that we need to have,” he added.

Inhofe is cagier than Coburn. Although he hasn’t declared his intentions regarding a vote on help for the victims of his state, he did say that the Oklahoma situation was “totally different”—maybe because it was in his home state. Yet nowhere has he declared support for the Oklahoma victims. One of Inhofe’s big objections during debate on Sandy’s relief was the fact that it included $28 billion for future disasters. Coburn objected to the same funding.

Two of Oklahoma’s five House members, all Republicans, voted against assistance to people following Sandy. Rep. Tom Cole was smarter: he said he supported Sandy relief because of potential tornadoes in his home state. This morning, he said on MSNBC, in referencing the catastrophic 2011 tornado in Joplin (MO), “Frankly, one of the reasons that we try to be sympathetic to people in other parts of the country” is that “we’re always one tornado away from being Joplin. I didn’t think it was going to be quite this soon.”

“Coburn is taking his own constituents hostage as budget-cutting human shields,” AMERICABlog’s John Aravosis wrote, adding: “We wouldn’t need to be holding a bake sale every time Mother Nature hiccuped … if the Republicans would stop spending a trillion on this war and another trillion on that tax cut.”

Especially in the wake of the sequester cuts, the notion that the federal budget is larded with easily eliminated spending is ludicrous. Would Coburn like to see more kids thrown out of Head Start? More seniors losing Meals on Wheels? The federal deficit is shrinking faster than at any time since just after World War II, but Coburn insists that someone, somewhere, must lose their federal help so Oklahoma can get it instead.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left one in 50 children without homes; the financial crisis increased this to one in 45 children—a total of 1.6 million in 2010 without a permanent place to live. Forty percent of these children are under the age of 6. The Southern states have the worst access to homeless shelters.

This tragedy of children without homes didn’t appear in the United States until the early 1980s, when it exploded. In the early 1980s, only one percent of people in homeless shelters were children and families; in 2011 children and families made up 41 percent of people sleeping in shelters.

A report from the Family Housing Fund shows that President Reagan initiated the rapid increase. Ralph da Costa-Núñez, who worked in New York Mayor Ed Koch’s administration, said:

“It was the gutting of the safety net. Reagan cut every social program that helped the poor. Then there’s inflation so their aid checks are shrinking. Where are they going? Into the streets, into the shelters.”

Rather than provide low-income housing, Reagan believed that the market would take care of the problem. By 1985, the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million.

President Clinton’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Act, which decreased welfare from 12.3 million per month in 1996 to 4.4 million June 2011, was hardest on women and children. Conservatives find this a success story, but children and families are living on the streets. Caseloads stayed static through record joblessness, and women and children make do by scavenging the trash and returning to abusive relationships.

The result is an increase of psychological disorders for both children and their mothers. “Half of school-age homeless children experience anxiety, depression, or withdrawal compared to 18 percent of non-homeless children,” according to the Traumatic Stress network. Male homeless children are more aggressive and females, more withdrawn. All of them are prone to more chronic illnesses, endocrine dysfunction, and stunted growth. School is a disaster not only because of these problems but also because of the instability caused by constantly moving from one place to another.

Conservatives who blame the problems on laziness and “hustling the system” decrease benefits and increase the homelessness. And Coburn wants to make the problem worse by insisting on “offsets.”

States are also gutting their budgets to give money to the wealthy, and people in North Carolina are fighting back with their protests on “Moral Mondays.” One recently arrested woman is 80-year-old former educator Barbara Parramore who is fighting for the return of funds for education. The photo on the right is Parramore with her daughter, Lynn Stuart Parramore. The left one is her mug shot.

barbara parramoremug shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

People are taking action!

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!

April 26, 2013

The First Nine Constitutional Amendments, An Easy Lesson

Until the rants of the Tea Party started to take over the media, the U.S. Constitution was looked upon as an important part of our heritage that courts used to determine whether laws fit into the overview of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. Less than five years ago, people like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declared that everything the liberals do is unconstitutional, and three years ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) required that the entire constitution be read at the beginning of the 112th Congressional session so that all the bills would conform with the Constitution.

Representatives tried to read aloud with varying success–only a few glitches such as leaving out the piece blacks being only three-fifths of a person and skipping part of it because a couple of pages got stuck together. That part guaranteed “to every state in this union a republican form of government.”

They also left out the part written by the infallible Founding Fathers about runaway slaves, that if they escaped to a free state, the Constitution required that they not be freed but rather “delivered up” to their owners. Notable, too, was the omission of how the electoral college works, perhaps because the conservatives plan to get rid of it so that they can elect a GOP president.

Now Jon Stewart has brought to life the first nine amendments to the U.S. Constitution through playing clips of Fox pundits on The Daily Show, pontificating about the recent Boston bombing.

As Stewart said, “Anybody can toss away the lesser known amendments. Only a true patriot can set a course straight for the First.” And Bob Beckel, a host on The Five, did exactly that when he asked that the U.S. “cut off Muslim students from coming to the country for some period of time.” That eviscerates the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, religion, and press as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.

Eric Bolling wanted wiretapping in mosques, attacking the Fourth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause.

Fox folks were highly incensed about suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being read his Miranda rights, claiming he should be declared an enemy combatant and “intensely interrogated.”

“In the wake of an assault on our freedom and way of life, we have quickly jettisoned the Sixth Amendment–right to a fair and speedy trial–and the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination,” Stewart said. “What’s next?” Stewart left out the violation of the Seventh Amendment that provides for the right to trial by jury in certain civil cases, according to common law.

Sean Hannity doesn’t “believe” that waterboarding is torture. “There goes the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment,” Stewart continued. “Any others?”

Actually, yes there were. Ann Coulter said, “I want to know about this wife… I don’t care if she knew about this. She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab.”

To Coulter’s impassioned plea, Stewart responded, “And down goes the Ninth Amendment! Down goes the Ninth Amendment! Ann Coulter doesn’t just want a police state. She wants a fashion police state.” (I had to look up the Ninth Amendment: it protects rights not enumerated in the Constitution.”

Thus Stewart showed that Fox wants to ignore seven of the first nine constitutional amendments in the treatment of the 19-year-old suspected of setting off pressure cooker bombs at the Boston marathon. It seems that Fox didn’t address the forced quartering of soldiers—but that’s only in peacetime, and the government seems to have declared the United States permanently at war somewhere.

Stewart asked if there were any constitutional right that Fox wants to keep after the Boston bombing.  “Since we’re just throwing amendments away willy-nilly, what if we wanted to track the weapons that any of these America haters bought, or do a background check?” Stewart said.

Visuals juxtaposed the 3,400 deaths from terrorism in the United States during the past 30 years with the almost one million deaths from guns during the same time. That was followed by a montage of clips from Fox, extolling the virtues of bearing arms in any situation and as many as people might want.

“Yes, it turns out there’s only one amendment in our constitution’s pantheon that is exempt from statistical analysis or emotional freak-out-itude, and it is the Second. So god help us if the Muslims ever decide to form a well regulated militia.”

Stewart

The written word does not do justice to this segment of The Daily Show. You can find the video here.  Send it to everyone you know, and make it go viral!

GohmertStupidity about the Boston bombing is as rampant in Congress as on Fox. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) accused President Obama of being influenced by Muslim Brotherhood members in his administration. On a radio interview yesterday, he said, “This administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”

Gohmert didn’t think this up on his own. Almost a year ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the government, pointing a finger at top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Her false accusations led to Egyptian protests against the Secretary of State when she went there and the need for Abedin to have police protection because of threats against her life.

At that time, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) condemned Bachmann’s statements, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) described her claims as “pretty dangerous.” Even conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) defended Abedin.

Gohmert, who gets his information from extremist right-wing media media such as World Net Daily, sits on the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Meanwhile the conservatives are busy creating conspiracy theories: the government staged the attack to take over the government; the First Lady is hiding a Saudi student who was the real bomber; the Fox cartoon Family Guy predicted the bombing; the marathon organizers knew about the bombing before the race; the suspects’ uncle worked with the CIA; Facebook pages memorializing the blast were created before it happened; the dead suspect was an FBI informant; he’s not actually dead; and photos of the suspects at the scene of the crime were photoshopped.

Now Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) believe that a nationwide shortage of ammunition has resulted from the Obama administration’s stockpiling. To stop this and create more “transparency and accountability,” they introduced the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act, AMMO act for short. Finally, a gun control bill from the conservatives!

These two Congressmen probably got their news from fringe websites like Drudge or Alex Jones’s Infowars. Even Brietbart.com, known for its crazy stories, described the idea as “based more on panic than fact.” These are the people who keep our country from moving forward.

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