Nel's New Day

February 23, 2019

Hope from Elections, Courts

In a desperate move last fall after Democratic governors and state legislators were elected, several GOP-dominated state legislative bodies passed laws that would hamstring the elective preferences of the people. The Wake County Superior Court has determined that the illegally gerrymandered North Carolina General Assembly cannot put constitutional amendments on the ballot because it lacked the full will of the state’s people. The court voided two of these amendments related to a photo voter ID requirement and lowering of the state income tax cap. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that many of North Carolina’s legislative districts were illegally drawn on racial lines and required that 117 districts be redrawn by the 2018 election. Legislators from the illegally-drawn lines passed the two amendments that tend “to favor white households” and would “reinforc[e] the accumulation of wealth for white taxpayers,” according to a lawsuit.

North Carolina is also the only state without a seated representative in the U.S. House from the 2018 election. This past week, the state election board unanimously required a new election for the seat that Baptist pastor Mark Harris claimed to have won by 905 votes after he stepped down. The election board had investigated Harris and his employee who had been accused with “stuffing the ballot box” by requesting, collecting, and completing absentee ballots in favor of Republicans. A closer look at Harris’ actions shows more anomalies. One was Harris’ testimony that he paid the employee through a PAC, a violation of election laws, and then tried to retract that statement several times later in the day. North Carolina has never addressed the type of voter fraud that Harris exhibited, concentrating instead of non-existent “in-person” voter fraud in the GOP attempts to restrict Democratic voting.

Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman is bringing investigation findings of the 9th District election fraud in both 2016 and 2018 to a grand jury next month. She took the case from Marion Warren, the director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, after it was discovered that Warren had introduced Mark Harris to his employee, who is now under scrutiny. Warren has announced a new job at Regent University School of Law in Virginia next month.

David Whitley, Texas’ acting Secretary of State, needs to have two-thirds of a vote for confirmation. His problem is that he inaccurately stated that 95,000 possible noncitizens registered to vote in the state before checking his facts—that tens of thousands of them are citizens. He did apologize for his “mistake,” but 12 Democrats are refusing to vote for him in committee, which would sink his nomination requiring a two-thirds state Senate vote for success. Whitley still hasn’t retracted the list although one of his deputies said the office knew that flagged voters included names of naturalized citizens. The office used outdated driver’s license data to determine citizenships so there is no accurate count of voter fraud. The state is now facing three federal lawsuits over Whitley’s actions, at least one of them about voter disenfranchisement for the March 2, 2019 election. Verifying Whitley’s misinformation is a nightmare, especially for large counties, because Texas law mandates voter registration on paper only. Verifying naturalization also causes problems because data on ceremonies is limited to counties.

The U.S. Supreme Court made an amazing decision this past week—and did it unanimously. All nine justices ruled that states cannot ignore the Constitution when imposing fines or confiscating people’s property in civil or criminal cases. Although to many of us, the ruling sounds like common sense, but states have been confiscating money and property for centuries, but the profits made by governments accelerated with a 1978 federal law. Although the law may seem reasonable on its surface, law enforcement officials have been taking money from people even if they aren’t charged with any crime and then keeping it. By 2018, the DOJ had about $1.5 billion in its forfeiture fund. Reporters have found several cases when people were pulled over with no justification and had their money taken with no proof of a crime. After the police took $11,000, a college student’s life savings, he had to fight in court to get his money returned.

The high court heard Timbs v. Indiana, a case in which police kept a $42,000 Land Rover purchased with legal funds after Tyson Timbs was charged in selling two grams of heroin to an undercover officer. The maximum fine for the infraction was $10,000—four times less than the value of his vehicle that he lost. Indiana is one of four states that claims that the Constitution didn’t cover state law. The justices found that keeping the Land Rover violated the Eighth Amendment’s “excessive fines clause” that applies to state and local courts as well as federal ones.

In a win for Montana, after the Supreme Court wiped out its campaign finance law in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock (2012), the high court let stand the state’s Disclose Act requiring the disclosure of donors to groups spending money or mentioning a candidate with 60 days of a state-level elections. A lower court had ruled the law constitutional, and the Supreme Court declined to take the case. Montana is the third state after New York and California to have disclosure laws for dark money.

A federal judge in Seattle told the Defense Department that it may not require soldiers who are naturalized citizens to undergo “continuous monitoring,” security checks every two years if the military doesn’t scrutinize U.S.-born soldiers in the same way. The 17 plaintiffs are among the 10,000 who enlisted in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program that recruits immigrants with critical foreign language or medical skills in exchange for a fast track to citizenship. In mid-2018, the Pentagon began discharging MAVNI participants but reversed the policy a month later.

The research into which whities wore blackface in the past went deep after a photo allegedly with Virginia Ralph Northam (D) initiated the media examination during Black History Month. Most of the photos lacked captions, but 78 USA Today reporters, assigned to the search, found one in the 1989 Arizona State University’s yearbook. Their current editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll was editor of that yearbook and designer of the page with the blackface photo. She has apologized.

Oregon is considering a bill that would drop the voting age from 18 to 16. If the legislature passes the measure, it would be on the 2020 ballot for a vote by the people. My first thought was that 16-year-olds are too young to vote—until I read this article about a 12-year-old journalist. This past week, Hilde Kate Lysiak visited Patagonia (AZ) on the trail of a stories including resident’s opinions about the Border Patrol and the proposed border wall when Joseph Patterson, who passes for the small town’s police chief, stopped her and asked for ID. She gave him her telephone number and address before she told him that she was a member of the press. Patterson said, “I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom-of-the-press stuff.” He also threatened to have her arrested and thrown into juvey. [Photo by James Moorehead]

Lysiak decided to tape him when she asked him what she was doing that was illegal. Patterson sat in his white Chevy Silverado truck and said, “You taping me? You can tape me, okay, but what I’m going to tell you is if you put my face on the Internet, it’s against the law in Arizona.”

The conversation continued as he accused her of lying to him and disobeying his commands. He finally told her, “I’ll be getting a hold of your parents” before he drove off. When Lysiak posted the video to her blog later, she explained that the first Amendment protects recording a law enforcement official in a public place that no law prevents her actions. She also posted her story about the wall.

Lysiak reported on a murder in her hometown when she was nine and has reported on bank robberies, alleged rapes, and other crimes in her Orange Street News, which she helped found almost five years ago and publishes from her parents’ home in Selinsgrove (PA).

Patagonia has taken action against Patterson but won’t say what that is. This is not the first time that Patterson has threatened people with arrest after they started to video him, but it’s the first time that he went after a 12-year-old—and the first time that he had to back down. Lysiak’s taping of Patterson’s threats has received almost 250,000 views and almost 1,000 comments.

I’d pick 12-year-old Hilde Lysiak as an educated voter over Joseph Patterson any time.

October 19, 2016

Court System, Nation’s Values Support Rape Culture

Filed under: Rape — trp2011 @ 3:56 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Donald Trump has been revealed as a sexual predator, but only 12 percent of registered Republicans think that he should drop out of the presidential campaign after they heard about his sexual assaults. His supporters claim that all men engage in the kind of talk from Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush or, Pat Robertson’s defense, Trump was just being “macho.” After a number of women accused Trump of assault and not “just words,” Trump called all of them liars and rejected their claims, supported by the women’s conversations at the time that Trump sexually attacked them. Trump’s campaign has also threatened legal action against the women. Thus the vast majority of Republicans have joined Trump and his campaign in their attempt to normalize a rape culture, the belief that men have unlimited rights to women’s bodies by downplaying sexual assault and denying the women’s stories.

The last presidential candidates’ town hall addressed Trump’s behavior, but men were not at all concerned about the issue. By contrast, Trump’s sexual predation was Number One. Soraya Chemaly, the director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, pointed out:

 “It is an abstraction for most men. To try to explain why sexual harassment, street harassment, the threat of rape, affects our ability to go to school, walk freely, to get jobs, to keep working in certain places, it’s like it doesn’t matter. It’s like it’s just a trivial thing. And clearly, women’s response to this indicates that it’s not trivial to them.”

martin-blake-1A judgment in a Montana court shows that the judge believes rape is inconsequential. Forty-year-old Martin Blake of Glasgow (MT) admitted to three counts of rape and incest and was convicted for one rape. He pled out of a 100-year sentence to receive 30 years, yet Judge John C. McKeon suspended the prison term and gave him 60 days in jail minus the 17 days he had already served. McKeon found that this 60-day term and registering as a sex offender was sufficient for a man who raped his 12-year-old daughter.

Licensed clinical social worker Michael Sullivan testified that Blake would benefit more from community-based sex-offender treatment than from a prison term. Sullivan said that social support during his treatment was vital because he had lost his job and family. At this time, Blake lives with his mother, who spoke on his behalf. Public defender Casey Moore used Blake’s admission to his crimes as a plus on his side, but his “honesty” may have come from the fact that the girl’s mother walked into the room during one of the rapes.

“I’m not asking that he be given a slap on the wrist. He did spend 17 days in jail and he did lose his job, and will be on supervision for the rest of his life.”

The girl’s grandmother was concerned about how a prison term would impact the lives of Blake’s two sons. “His children, especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives,” she said.

McKeon claimed that the sentence was commensurate to the nature and degree of harm and then insisted that Blake’s sentence was appropriate and safe, that the conditions of the sentence are “quite restrictive” and “quite rigorous.” Basically, Blake has to have a job, stay away from those under 18 years old without prior approval, and avoid sexual materials.

McKeon was upset because the prosecuting attorney said that Blake should be held accountable because he “repeatedly raped his daughter.” Jenson shouldn’t have brought up multiple incidents of incest, according to McKeon, because sentencing was for only one count of incest although the psychological evaluation submitted as a court document referenced the three sexual assaults.

More than 1,000 residents have called for removal of the judge, and a petition has almost 30,000 signatures censuring him. But McKeon gets off free because he starts collecting retirement from Montana taxpayers at the end of November.

Montana has gained national media coverage in the past for its light sentences. In 2013, District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings sentenced former high school teacher Stacey Rambold to 30 days in prison after suggesting the 14-year-old victim—Rambold’s former student—was equally responsible for the 2007 rape. Public outcry resulted in Judge Randal Spaulding resentencing Rambold to ten years. The victim had committed suicide in 2010.

Nick Bata, Libertarian candidate for North Dakota insurance commissioner, now has media attention for his “Make America Rape Again” on his Facebook page. He described the comment as “an online discussion that got a little bit wacky.” The discussion resulted from a Buzzfeed article about a definition of the term “consent.” The comparison is that taking money from a person without their consent is the same as taking sex from a person without their consent.

Bata responded, “Rape culture is a myth [social justice warriors] created.” Just like Trump’s comments, Bata’s dismissals of rape as a crime were offensive to many readers of the social network discussion. His flippant remark “make America rape again” responded to a posting by Juan Carlos Gomez:

“Why are you so dead set against seeing the reality women live through on a daily basis? Is the reality that women you care about go through this too much for you to handle? Or can you be so arrogant to think that only your life experience is valid?”

Ali Owens concluded her piece on rape culture in Huffington Post by explaining gender attitudes toward sexual assault:

“The vast majority of the victims of rape culture are women… and the vast majority of people who tell me rape culture doesn’t exist are―you guessed it―men. Men who somehow believe they are qualified to make that call—to wave away the persistent threat of sexual violence that we women live with every single day of our lives, that is ingrained in us from the time we are very small. Go ahead―wave it away. Minimize it; pretend it’s not there. Because, to you―as someone who’s never had to deal with it―it’s not there.”

Owens’ piece is a must-read for everyone because it shows how women are criticized no matter what they behave—confrontational v. not fighting back, paranoid v. not careful enough, too friendly or nice v. not friendly or nice enough, etc.

In Donald Trump, society has a classic example of someone who represents the rape culture, one in which rape is not actively encouraged but passively condoned. Trump’s philosophies:

trump-at-2012-miss-universeWomen are sexual objects and judged as this, even to the point of Trump’s denying that he would not sexually assault a woman because she didn’t look good enough for him to do it.

Young girls are sex objects in training as shown by Trump, a grown man, tells female children that he’d be dating them in ten years.

Women will let men to anything to them if they have money or fame: this was the focus of Trump’s comments on the video with Billy Bush.

Women’s looks are used as currency as Trump talks about how women can’t succeed if they aren’t attractive.

Women are naturally sluts and men can’t help themselves from assaulting them, shown by his tweets about looking at the “sex tapes” for a women who criticized his advances or his accusation that the military has sexual assaults because they allow women to be soldiers.

Men decide when women can take offense, and they shouldn’t take offense because “it’s just words.” That’s the excuse that people use to cover offensive, suggestive, rape-inducing statements.

The fear caused by this rape culture perpetuates it. Far more women would probably come forward to describe Trump’s sexual assault if they weren’t afraid to suffer a loss of jobs, lawsuits, humiliation, relationships, friends, etc. They know that many people won’t believe them or will blame them for men’s actions. Coming out to others about sexual assault requires great courage; I applaud everyone who has shown that bravery.

February 20, 2013

Who Elected These People!?

The U.S. Representatives and Senators have gone home to tell their constituents what a great job they’re going while state legislators continue to spread their craziness in their capitols–all from the party that claimed they wanted to increase jobs and help the economy.

Former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), who served six terms and left in 2009, has admitted that he fathered an illegitimate child with Michelle Laxalt, the daughter of former Nevada Gov. and Sen. Paul Laxalt (R) and a top Washington lobbyist.  She raised Adam, their son, as a single parent and continually praised Domenici for his character and “integrity.” This story might not be important if Dominici had not supported Bill Clinton’s impeachment for covering up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. According to Dominici, “I have concluded that President Clinton’s actions do, indeed, rise to the level of impeachable offenses that the Founding Fathers envisioned.” Domenici also voted for the sanctity of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In his appearance on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) came out with the real reason that he wants to destroy the economy by continuing the sequester. After Chris Wallace asked him if Graham really wanted to slash Head Start programs for 70,000 children, cut 2,100 food inspectors, and eliminate $900 million in loan guarantees for small businesses, Graham said that he would do it to get rid of Obamacare.

The supposedly kinder, gentler House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) struggled to explain the reason behind removing health care from people who need it on Meet the Press a week ago. Immediately after he talked with great sympathy about a 12-year-old child who has had cancer for 11 years, he moved, without segue, to how the child will benefit from lowering the deficit. Somewhere he missed the point that without health care, the child will die.

Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell, once a possibility for vice-president until his proposed title meant “vaginal probe,” is following private industry to cheat employees. He’s limiting the number of hours for state employees to 29 per week to avoid paying for Obamacare, assuming that he can save $110 million a year in health care benefits. McDonnell failed to take into consideration the money that these people without insurance will cost in emergency care. Adjunct faculty in higher education may lose a third of their current wages. Teaching an almost full course load,  they are paid a one-time fee, but considered hourly wage employees. My question for VP McDonnell: will you also limit your weekly work load to 29 hours?

Virginia is known for other mind-boggling activities. Not only did Del. Robert G. Marshall (R) propose the idea of the commonwealth making its own money—because, of course, the United States is going to collapse, but the plan passed by a two-thirds majority earlier this month. Saner minds prevailed in the Senate that voted it down, perhaps in part because the U.S. Constitution does not allow states to have individual currency. Yet there are enough people in one of the original 13 states that believed this could be workable.

The Thirteenth Amendment, adopted in 1865, abolished slavery. This year, 148 years later, Mississippi made the vote unanimous. Although the state’s legislature voted in 1995, 120 years later, to do so, they failed to notify the Office of the Federal Register of that legislative action. This month they did so.

Republicans want freedom—or so they say. Missouri state Rep. Mike Leara (R) has proposed legislation making it a felony for lawmakers to so much as propose bills regulating guns. It provides that “[a]ny member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony.” Like many other anti-gun law people, Leara, in ignoring the constitutional Speech and Debate clause, thinks that the U.S. Constitution is composed of only the Second Amendment.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (Indiana) is introducing a measure calling for a convention where states could propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. His goal is to keep Congress from taxing and regulating interstate commerce. Article V of the U.S. Constitution permits this but only if two-thirds of all state legislatures demand the convention. Indiana conservatives criticize Long because he is preventing votes on measures he calls “blatantly unconstitutional.” The state’s house speaker Brian Bosma said he will carry Long’s measure if it reaches his chamber.

You can’t make up this stuff. Montana State Rep. Jerry O’Neil (R) is sponsoring a bill to allow defendants to “bargain with the court” to receive “corporal punishment in lieu of incarceration.” The bill would apply to not just misdemeanor crimes, but also felonies, though the bill requires that the “exact nature of the corporal punishment to be imposed” be “commensurate with the severity, nature, and degree of the harm caused by the offender.” John S. Adams, who covers the Montana legislature for the Great Falls Tribune, wrote, “Republican leadership has been doing its best to tamp down any potential bills the other side might use to embarrass the GOP as they work to craft a budget. This one apparently didn’t get tamped.” We can guess that Karl Rove’s new group won’t be funding O’Neil.

Another politician who probably won’t get Rove’s support is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who told 18-year-old undocumented student Jessica Bravo, “I hate illegals.”  She made an appointment to talk with him because she “wanted to explain that I have no other home than Costa Mesa, I wanted to speak for all those in my community who are too afraid to talk about their status.” When she told Rohrabacker her status, he became angry and shook his finger at her. As she left his office, Bravo told reporters that he asked if she had registered for the meeting. “Well, now I know where you live,” he had told her threateningly.

And scratch Rep. John “Jimmy” Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) off Rove’s list. Yesterday, in talking about the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) which the House has yet to act on, Duncan said, “Like most men, I’m more opposed to violence against women than even violence against men, because most men can handle it a little better than a lot of women can.” Despite his offensively ignorant sexist statement, he isn’t sure whether he will support VAWA.

Top on my list of stupid statements, however, comes from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in her outrage against raising the minimum wage to $9.00, as President Obama suggested in his State of the Union address. She began with the argument that young workers couldn’t learn responsibility as she did as a teenage retail employee in Mississippi:

“I remember my first job, when I was working in a retail store, down there, growing up in Laurel, Mississippi. I was making like $2.15 an hour. And I was taught how to responsibly handle those customer interactions. And I appreciated that opportunity.”

To those who think that $2.15 an hour isn’t much, like Blackburn does, consider that the $2.15 an hour she made between 1968 and 1970 is now worth between $12.72 and $14.18. Forty-five years ago, the minimum wage was $1.60, equivalent to $10.56 in today’s terms. Today’s minimum wage of $7.25 is equivalent to just $1.10 an hour in 1968 dollars, meaning the teenage Blackburn managed to enter the workforce making almost double the wage she now says is keeping teenagers out of the workforce.

Blackburn’s statement may be matched only by former Rep. Ron Paul’s appeal to the United Nations. The father of Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul is known for his anti-UN position: “American national sovereignty cannot survive if we allow our domestic laws to be crafted by an international body.” The owners of the domain name RonPaul.org, his own followers, have offered him the domain free along with their mailing list of 170,000 email address.  He turned them down and filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a global governing body that is an agency of the United Nations. Maybe they’ve settled: the link for the PDF of the complaint doesn’t work.

Right now, polling puts approval of Congress at 15 percent, four percent lower than a month ago. At that time, Congress was lower than used car salesmen, root canals, colonscopies, and cockroaches. It probably still it. Have a nice time talking to your constituents, Congresspeople!

November 1, 2012

Ryan, As Bad as Romney

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:28 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The whites are winning over the Native Americans in Montana. Over 30,000 Native American voters live in that state, most of them on reservations, forced to drive as far as 113 miles to vote. In his ruling, a judge refused satellite voting polls on the reservations even though he admits that the Native Americans don’t have equal voting rights. He probably doesn’t want a Democrat senator from Montana. Native Americans in 2006 are largely credited with giving Jon Tester the boost at the polls he needed to narrowly beat out Republican Sen. Conrad Burns by just 3,500 votes out of more than 400,000 cast.

A question to ask the 73 percent of the evangelicals who plan to vote for Romney/Ryan.

Paul Ryan has been so far in hiding that I’ve ignored him during the past couple of months. With Election Day a few days off, however,I dragged out my Ryan folder.

During his 13 years in the House, Ryan has produced only two laws: (1) changed the name of the post office in Janesville (WI); and (2) changed the way arrows used in bow hunting are taxed, removing sales tax on the arrows that cost from $35 to $185 dollars. You may have guessed that Ryan’s hobby is bow hunting. He did have a disastrous tax plan, but it wasn’t his law. 

Soon after he was named the GOP VP candidate, one of his interviews may have caused him to disappear from view. Ryan’s position until he developed Romnesia is that there should be no exceptions for abortion. Perhaps one reason he has this opinion is that he identified rape as “a method of conception.” Raped women probably don’t agree with his wording.

Before his disappearance, he committed several other gaffes.

About his criticism of the  stimulus three years ago: Ryan not only took advantage of this (although he tried to deny this), but he really liked the same proposal when George W. Bush proposed it because it “is to create jobs and help the unemployed.”

About his foreign policy credentials: Ryan said he “voted to send men to war.” About one of his favorite bands: Ryan listed “Rage against the Machine”;  its band leader Tom Morello called Ryan the embodiment of the machine against which the band is raging.

About ENDA: Ryan voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007 but later voted against it because of the language “gender identity.”

About rape:  Ryan co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI) that would redefine “rape” for the purposes of Medicaid funding just a year before he declared Akin’s comments about “legitimate” rape to be “outrageous.

Ryan hates government help for business and calls the progressives who work to help people a cancer. He claims that “hard-working Americans are what create jobs, not government. What he doesn’t tell people is that his family business, the one he briefly worked for as a “marketing consultant,” was built in large part on government contracts, starting in 1884. Ryan Incorporated Central began with government-subsidized railroad construction, moved into building federal interstate highways, and then helped build O’Hare Airport. The company has had at least 22 defense contracts since 1996, including one worth $5.6 million.

Ryan also voted to keep $40 billion in special subsidies for big oil. Ryan and his wife hold ownership stakes in big oil and benefit from his vote.

Ryan is in another position to help his family, this time his wife. Janna Ryan previously worked as a lobbyist for a “roster of clients [that] included pharmaceutical and insurance clients such as Novartis, Cigna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” according to a Reuters profile. Ryan touts a Medicare plan that would expand the role of private insurers by replacing the traditional Medicare plan with a voucher program that seniors could use to purchase private health plans. Janna Ryan was also part of the team that lobbied for UPS to defeat a postal reform bill that would have made the U.S. Postal Service more profitable. During that time Paul Ryan made one of his two corporate-funded trips in 2000 to Atlanta, a trip funded by UPS. 

Ryan’s great attachment to Ayn Rand’s writing gives him confusion about an older document, the Constitution. A year ago, he said, “What makes our Constitution such an extraordinary document is that, in making the United States the freest civilization in history, the Founders guaranteed that it would become the most prosperous as well. The American system of limited government, low taxes, sound money, and the rule of law has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed.”

The original Constitution placed no limits on the amount of federal taxes; the Sixteenth Amendment provided that the United States “shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes.” People decide how much the taxes will be, not the Constitution. The most disturbing aspect of Ryan’s speech, however, is a seemingly innocuous claim that the “the enforcement of contracts” is protected by the “constitutional cornerstone of our free society.” The Constitution had almost nothing to say about contracts between private parties. If the Constitution actually did shield contracts in the way Ryan suggests, nearly all laws protecting workers and consumers would be unconstitutional, the perception of the Supreme Court before the Great Depression. It appears that Ryan wants to drive the country back to those dark days.

 Jonathan Chait wrote last spring in a Ryan profile that nobody, with the possible exception of Grover Norquist, had done more to destroy bipartisan deficit reduction agreements than Paul Ryan. In another article he wrote about Ryan voting against the Bowles-Simpson commission and then destroying another deficit plan. The third time that Ryan stopped a long-term fiscal readjustment was when President Obama and Rep. John Boehner striking a deal far more favorable to the GOP than either Bowles-Simpson or the Senate plan. During negotiations to raise the debt ceiling and keep the country stable, Rep. Eric Cantor, second in control of the House, told the president that Ryan disliked its policy and worried that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama’s easy re-election.

Ryan’s connection to Romney goes back to Bain Capital when Ryan’s brother was a consultant for the leverage company. This came to light after both Romney and Ryan were accused of profiting by a possibly shady deal with a marketing company contracted by the state of Massachusetts while Romney was the Massachusetts governor.

The debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan showed some of Ryan’s techniques: The Blame Game where it’s always somebody else’s fault; The Boogeyman Move in which he accuses the opponent of trying scare people; The Denial which says that other people have succeeded in something similar; The Pivot which changes the subject; and Attack which Ryan used for the question, “Don’t you think negative campaigning is bad?” Instead of answering, Ryan simply attacked President Obama.

In one interview, Ryan managed to follow The Pivot with The Blame. Asked if “this country has a gun problem,” Ryan immediately retorted, “This country has a crime problem.” Unfortunately, he slipped up when he used a variety of racist stereotypes: “But the best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunity in the inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in the inner cities, is to help teach people good discipline, good character.” I guess that’s why crime only happens in poor areas, not in the Aurora (CO) shootings.

Ryan is closer than a heartbeat away from the presidency; some people are saying that he’ll be the Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

October 27, 2012

Election Insanity Continues

Texas is still sending out mailings telling everyone that photo IDs are required for voting despite the fact that a judge overturned that law. The state has also threatened to arrest any international voting observers despite the fact that they have been doing this for at least a decade. Texas is home to the organization True the Vote that is determined to intimidate any suspicious voters (aka possible Democrats).

In Florida Palm Beach County hasn’t learned its lesson about ballots. The Board of Elections sent out about 27,000 absentee ballots that can’t be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. After discovering that the design had omitted a heading for a new category, they inserted the heading that then shifted the placement of the races. Their solution for the problem is to duplicate the ballots. This is the state where the Republicans pretended to solve the problem of fraudulent voting.

Rachel Maddow’s blog has regularly posted photographs of busy polling places during early voting. My favorite thus far comes from William Fassett of Spokane (WA) where everyone in the state votes entirely by mail. He wrote, “It’s hard to create barriers to voting at the ‘polls’ when there are no polling places.” I live in Oregon which has the same mandated voting by mail. When we started the process, I had my doubts, but every election convinces me more and more that it’s the only way to go.

 

I have worked very hard to give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt in media claims about racism. The statement from John Sununu is so blatant, however, that there’s no way to give it a pass. The following is an exchange between Sununu and CNN’s Piers Morgan about why Colin Powell endorsed the president:

SUNUNU: You have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or that he’s got a slightly different reason for President Obama.

MORGAN: What reason would that be?

SUNUNU: Well, I think that when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being President of the United States–I applaud Colin for standing with him.

 

John McCain may be closer to the edge than Sununu; now he’s accused Powell of lying to the UN about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. After Powell’s endorsement of President Obama, McCain said, “I think one of the sad aspects of his career is going to the United Nations Security Council and telling them things about Iraq that were absolutely false.” The saddest part about this situatio–and McCain’s misrepresentation–is that the Bush/Cheney administration lied to Powell and used him as a front man for the bogus case of a preemptive war against Iraq. This is also the same McCain who almost a decade ago, said, “When the people of Iraq are liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America.”

McCain reflects how frantic the GOP has become about the really stupid things that their candidates are saying. In Florida, wealthy Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack now scores “zero” on voting for the interests of the middle class. And she does so without shame when she describes her own constituents, many of them struggling people whose homes are under water with the mortgages higher than the value, as “a third world toilet.” She has been depicted as a politician who earned her House seat the “old-fashioned way” through nepotism, cronyism, and big-money politics.

Montana may have to have a special election for governor if Republican Rick Hill wins the position. The dispute comes from a $500,000 donation to Hill from the Montana Republican Party in the week between a U.S. District judge striking down Montana’s donation limits and the reinstatement of these limits by the 9th U.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A state judge has ordered Hill to stop spending the donation and cancel all pending ads bought with the money while she reviews the legality of the contribution. Democrat candidate Steve Bullock argues that the $500,000 donation exceeds the state limit of $22,600 that any political party can give a candidate for governor. Montana will be a place to watch during on Election Day. Further investigation shows that the donation actually came from the Republican Governors Association who filtered their money through the Montana Republican Party.

The money is rolling in from Big Oil.  Determined to keep the GOP in control so that they can continue to rake in the bucks, Chevron just gave John Boehner’s superPAC another $2.5 million.

After Richard Mourdock, one of the candidates who want to replace Indiana’s senior Sen. Dick Lugar, said that pregnancies resulting from rape were a “gift from God,” I thought we might have hit rock bottom. There’s a lot farther to go. At this time women on welfare in Pennsylvania receive additional assistance if they have children. A state bill wants to refuse any additional stipend unless the women become pregnant from rape—and they will have to prove they were raped.

Ryan has screwed up so badly in his statements since Mitt Romney named him VP candidate last August that he’s been sent to non-swing states to raise funds. Nevertheless,  Ryan is working at the Romney tradition of lying. The man with the budget shredding the safety net has not claimed,

“[A] Romney-Ryan administration will clearly restore those parts of the welfare-reform law that have been undone or weakened. We will do this for the sake of millions of Americans who deserve to lead lives of dignity and freedom. We will also apply other lessons from welfare reform’s success…. Mitt Romney and I want to apply this idea to other anti-poverty programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps. The federal government would continue to provide the resources, but we would remove the endless federal mandates and restrictions that hamper state efforts to make these programs more effective.”

Ryan’s proposed budget plan, that Romney praised, identifies $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over the next decade, with almost two-thirds of the savings come from programs intended to help Americans of limited means. CBPP’s Robert Greenstein said that Ryan’s plan “would cast tens of millions of less fortunate Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree, and squeeze funding for research, education, and infrastructure.”

It appears that Romney’s “Romnesia” may be contagious.

The Rolling Stone interview of President Obama by Douglas Brinkley is well-worth reading, but this is a great piece from it. When Brinkley asked the president what he thought Paul Ryan’s obsession with Ayn Rand’s work would mean if Ryan became vice president, President Obama said,

“Well, you’d have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity–that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a “you’re on your own” society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

“Of course, that’s not the Republican tradition. I made this point in the first debate. You look at Abraham Lincoln: He very much believed in self-sufficiency and self-reliance. He embodied it–that you work hard and you make it, that your efforts should take you as far as your dreams can take you. But he also understood that there’s some things we do better together. That we make investments in our infrastructure and railroads and canals and land-grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences, because that provides us all with an opportunity to fulfill our potential, and we’ll all be better off as a consequence. He also had a sense of deep, profound empathy, a sense of the intrinsic worth of every individual, which led him to his opposition to slavery and ultimately to signing the Emancipation Proclamation.

“That view of life – as one in which we’re all connected, as opposed to all isolated and looking out only for ourselves – that’s a view that has made America great and allowed us to stitch together a sense of national identity out of all these different immigrant groups who have come here in waves throughout our history.”

It seems that the president’s reference to Ryan as an adolescent has the  far right wing of the Republican party plenty riled. They’re pretty unhappy about the rest of the interview too.

One last very sad comment: Conservatives are now claiming that if people have a car, microwave, cell phone, and refrigerator, they aren’t really poor—that they’re doing just fine and there’s no serious separation in wealth in the United States. People who are making $21,000 or less a year—0.01% of Romney’s annual salary—may not agree.

Aside: A BBC World Service opinion poll of people from 21 countries showed that 20 of these prefer—by a large margin—that President Obama be relected. Only one country prefers Romney over Obama: Pakistan. Do they think that he will be easier on them than the current president?

January 6, 2012

Elected Officials Fight Citizens United

In the 21st century everything gets named “super” from Coca-Cola to politics. Super-PACs are a fine example of the bloating that results from “super” things. Unleashed in early 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, these monsters can raise and spend unlimited funding for candidates. Donors aren’t disclosed until after the presidential primaries or caucuses in early states.

Republican candidates may have approved of these in the beginning, but now some of them are beginning to whine about others’ advantages. Newt Gingrich, targeted by almost one-third of the over $14 million super-PAC advertising before the Iowa caucus, called on Mitt Romney to pull these ads in Iowa; Romney responded, correctly, that he cannot have anything to do with these super-PACs. (According to the ruling, a candidate can have no involvement in this advertising.) Then Gingrich, the man who wanted no negative campaigning on the Republican side, called Romney “a liar” on CBS’s Early Show.

People across the country are getting riled with the ruling. Montana, a state that may have anticipated the problems a century ago, passed a law in 1912 to fight Gilded Age corporate control over its government. The Montana Supreme Court has upheld this law that states, “[A] corporation may not make … an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political party that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” States rights will come into play here because Citizens United overturned a similar federal statute when a majority of justices claimed that independent electoral spending by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” that such laws were enacted to combat.

By a 5-2 vote, the Montana Supreme Court refused the ruling that Citizens United barring all laws limiting independent electoral spending. Chief Justice Mike McGrath cited the history surrounding the state law to show that corporate money, even if not directly contributed to a campaign, can give rise to corruption. Over 100 years ago, the ruling in Western Tradition Partnership v. Attorney General came during a time when Montana’s robber barons, the “Copper Kings,” so effectively politically and economically dominated the state that it lost its authority. According to Mark Twain, one Copper King “bought legislatures and judges as other men buy food and raiment.”

To reverse the Montana Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court would, according to  Professor Rick Hasen of the University of California-Irvine Law School, have to have said something like, “We don’t care whether or not independent spending can or cannot corrupt; the First Amendment trumps this risk of corruption.” They didn’t, however, so the Justices will have to explain how the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to consider the factual record in justifying corporate spending limits in campaign finance laws.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took a similar stand when, in late December, it upheld a 2006 New York City law that, among other things, bans lobbyists from giving gifts to City officials and requires them to disclose all fundraising and consulting activities. Judge Guido Calabresi agrees that corporate expenditures need to be contained: “If an external factor, such as wealth, allows some individuals to communicate their political views too powerfully, then persons who lack wealth may, for all intents and purposes, be excluded from the democratic dialogue.”

Calabresi added that the desire for a functioning democracy “is, I believe, something that is so fundamental that sooner or later it is going to be recognized. Whether this will happen through a constitutional amendment or through changes in Supreme Court doctrine, I do not know. But it will happen.” Calabresi justified his ruling by saying, “Citizens United stated that mere influence or access to elected officials is insufficient to justify a ban on independent corporate expenditures, improper or undue influence presumably still qualifies as a form of corruption.”

A number of cities across the United States from New York to Los Angeles are requesting that Congress pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The New York City Council suggests that the amendment state  “that corporations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or ‘rights’ of natural persons, specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech.”

California lawmakers have introduced a resolution calling for Congress to “propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.” All this is following the large number of small towns that began to protest Citizens United months ago and the Occupy Movement protesters against this ruling.

At this time, the Supreme Court’s ruling that money is constitutionally protected free speech and corporations are legal persons entitled to these protections, will probably overturn Montana’s Supreme Court. That’s the reason that other political entities are taking a different approach.

According to the Constitution, 34 state legislatures can call for a constitutional convention which could create an amendment banning corporate funding from elections. A year ago this didn’t look possible because Republicans seemed to be the only ones benefiting from the misguided Citizens United ruling: now Republicans are hurting too.

Even beyond the very peculiar “free speech, personhood” piece of the ruling is the difference in rules for corporations and unions. According to Citizens United, both corporations and unions are allowed to spend freely on campaigns, but corporations are permitted to stockpile funds whereas unions are refused this provision for corporations. In addition, employees may opt out of funding union political activities, but shareholders are forced to participate in corporate political spending. The difference in treatment of the two groups is very likely unconstitutional, but the judicial branch determines constitutionality. So much for following the Founding Fathers’ wishes!

The advertising industry predicts as much as $4 billion in spending across all the campaigns, including those for president, Senate, House and governorships. Much of this will come from corporations.

In Citizens United, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a 90-page dissenting opinion, arguing that “[t]he conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.” Stevens added, “[a]lthough they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office.”

According to Stevens, “Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

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