Nel's New Day

December 22, 2020

No Government Shutdown, Little Funding

The threat of the holiday 2020 government shutdown has been averted if Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signs the $2.3 trillion budget bill. Included in the bill is $900 billion for coronavirus relief. Congress already passed the $741 billion defense bill which DDT has not yet signed and promised to veto. He has until Wednesday before it goes into law unless he vetoes it in that time.

The House passed the budget by 359-53, the Senate by 92-6. The White House said DDT will sign the measure. The six GOP senators voting against the bill: Marsha Blackburn (TN), Rand Paul (KY), Rick Scott (FL), Ron Johnson (WI), Mike Lee (UT), and Ted Cruz (TX).  

DDT has signed a one-week Continuing Resolution to give time for the budget’s paperwork preparation.   

Last May, the House passed a $3 billion stimulus bill; it passed another one for $2.2 trillion in October. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to go above $1.1 trillion but finally settled on $900 billion in his attempt to get two GOP incumbent senators re-elected in Georgia on January 5. Arguments about the contents of the bill included the inclusion of stimulus checks, extended unemployment, and assistance for state and local governments—all opposed by Republicans. The GOP wanted no liability for lack of safety from COVID-19 and the elimination of any programs to use money from the Treasury Department rainy-day fund to save the country from financial crisis. Republicans lost both of these as well as financial help for states. The 5,593-page measure probably has lots of mystery items because lawmakers had only a few hours to consider it. A few openers:

  • $1.375 billion for 56 miles of DDT’s border wall;
  • $5 million for a database to track police misconduct;
  • $153 million for programs to better community relations with police;
  • 3 percent pay raise for military;
  • 1 percent pay raise for the civilian federal workforce.

Critics have pointed out that the “stimulus” bill is quite skimpy, especially the direct aid: 

  • $166 billion: the federal unemployment insurance supplement of $300 a week, extended for 11 weeks;
  • $120 billion: direct aid checks of $600 a person making under $75,000;
  • $284 billion: forgivable loans for businesses paying for rent and workers;
  • $15 billion: live venues, movie theaters, and other entertainment;
  • [several billion]: other Small Business Administration programs;
  • $82 billion: colleges and schools with $54 billion going to public schools;
  • $69 billion: vaccines ($22 billion – testing and tracing, $20 billion – vaccine procurement, $9 billion – vaccine distribution);
  • $45 billion: transportation, including $15 billion for the airline industry;
  • $25 billion: rental assistance and an extension of the moratorium on evictions;
  • $20 billion: Economic Injury Disaster Loans;
  • $13 billion: food-assistance programs, increasing the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit by 15 percent;
  • $10 billion: childcare assistance.

States and cities have a full year to use funding from last March’s Cares Act bill. In another measure, health providers must work with insurers for a fair price in case of unexpectedly out-of-network care to avoid massive bills. Republicans get a tax break on “three-martini lunch” because Democrats wanted expanded tax credits for low income families and the working poor. DDT lobbied for that benefit. Lawmakers claim this bill is only a starter for help, but McConnell will almost surely not allow another one. The GOP firmly believes in austerity when a Democrat is president.

Oregon hit national news when about 300 heavily armed white supremacists, including Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, broke into the state capitol during a one-day special legislative session. The far-right protesters attacked police with spray chemical agents, broke glass in the doors, and tore tarps from vandalized marble reliefs on the front steps. Streets around the capitol were closed, and residents were told to avoid the area. DDT has gone silent about any protesters, including the Antifa, because of the white supremacists’ unprovoked attacks on people. [Left: a protester at the Oregon capitol.]

Arizona’s GOP Chair Kelli Ward wants DDT to “cross the Rubicon,” the illegal action Julius Caesar took to change the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire through civil war and require people to swear fealty to him and not their country.

Caught up in a conspiracy theory, air-conditioner installer David Lopez-Zuniga was going to work in a small cargo truck filled with parts last October when a SUV deliberately struck his truck and forced him to the edge of the highway. Feigning an injury, Mark Aguirre, a former Houston police officer who believed the truck had 750,000 fraudulent ballots, ordered Lopez Zuniga to the ground and pointed a gun at his head. Aguirre claimed “Hispanic children” were used to sign ballots because their fingerprints weren’t in any databases. Steven Hotze, head of a conservative nonprofit, hired Aguirre as one of 20 investigators looking into Texas ballot fraud—conspiracy theories fed by DDT and his court cases. Aguirre was fired from the Houston police force in 2003 for ordering the arrest of 300 people in a retail store parking lot, some of them shopping. He claimed drag racing, and the city paid almost $1 million to settle multiple lawsuits. Aguirre refused to say why he picked Lopez-Zuniga and called the charges a “political prosecution.”  

AG Bill Barr has until Wednesday in office, and he opposes special investigators for both Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, and election fraud. He also thinks DDT is wrong with his rejection that Russia is behind the current cyber espionage; he said the hacking “certainly appears” to be from the Kremlin. On Monday, DDT told a tea party conference he won in a landslide and wants the Justice Department to back him in overturning the election. Barr also said there is no reason for seizing voting machines, something Sidney Powell talked about with DDT Sunday at the White House. DDT’s campaign had fired Powell because of her history of false claims. 

Boeing’s 737 MAX is back in the air after being grounded for 21 months ago, but a bipartisan Senate report describes how the company and the FAA manipulated its recertification tests after the two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. Boeing “inappropriately coached” FAA test pilots for the airplane’s desirable outcome with some tests on simulators not equipped to recreate the same conditions as the crashes. The FAA also retaliated against whistleblowers, blocking the investigation, didn’t hold senior managers accountable, and permitted Southwest Airlines to operate dozens of falsely certified planes.

The post office is again failing to deliver packages on time. This time the reason is heavy e-commerce and COVID-19 infections/exposures among almost 20,000 employees. DDT’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s sabotage of USPS delivery, especially of ballots, worsened the situation by trashing sorting machines and cutting back on overtime. Georgia’s election, with a deadline on January 5, has a request for 1.3 million mail-in ballots.

Last August, Russians poisoned Vladimir Putin’s opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Almost dying, Navalny tricked the Russian assigned to tail Navalny into explaining the method of poisoning: the lethal nerve agent Novichok was planted inside the crotch of his underpants. Konstantin Kudryavtsev believed he was being debriefed by a senior official from Russia’s National Security Council and talked about traveling to Siberia to clean up the evidence. Navalny probably lived because his flight was diverted to Omsk where he was treated within minutes of landing. When Kudryavtsev got the clothing, he applied solutions to destroy any evidence of poison, according to directions from Stanislav Makshakov, the official in charge of the toxin team.

Russia’s four-year ban from international sports competition may be cut in half, but the country will still miss the next two Olympics and the World Cup. No flag, no anthem, no presence at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Winter Games (Beijing), and other competitions such as the FIFA World Cup, the Youth Olympic Games, Paralympics, and other world championships. Russian athletes can compete but not under the Russian flag. The court ruling for Russian doping also requires Russian government representatives, including Putin, cannot attend a major international event for the next two years. Russia must pay $1.27 million to the World Anti-Doping Agency for covering the costs of its investigation and turn over data from its Moscow laboratory.

With the addition of a Moderna vaccine, the CDC is planning more vaccinations with the next tier going to essential workers and people 75 and over. The first group was comprised of healthcare workers and people in nursing homes along with “older” members of Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), 49, joined the “older” group to get vaccinated, becoming one of the 32,000 Floridians in a state with a population of 21,480,000, mostly people over 65 and an enormous nursing home population.

Grifters are making money off the grifter in the White House. Reggie Skyrock and Ashley Weiss selling bus tickets to Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, for $40—no refunds. Yes, you read that right. It’s posted on Event Brite. And the announcement was still there a few hours even after The Bulwark outed them.  

September 17, 2020

Will DDT Kill Democracy?

Today, Constitution Day, commemorates the adoption of the document guiding the U.S. for 233 years. During 190 weeks, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has consistently failed his oath “to preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution and ignored its checks and balances, electoral responsibility, and legal accountability. “Congress legislates and the president executes,” according to historian and legal scholar Edward Larson who asks for laws to prevent constitutional abuses: “bar emergency declarations from lasting more than a fixed number of days without congressional approval, and authorize either house of Congress to challenge any such declarations or executive orders in court. Further, no president should have power to reprogram funds where Congress has already considered the issue and rejected the funding”; i.e., DDT’s wall taking Defense Department appropriations. Other DDT abuses are continual acting political appointees and starting wars. The most egregious DDT abuse, however, may be his promotion of extrajudicial “law and order” through encouraging violence.

From the start of his first campaign, DDT called for violence against his opponents. His growing desperation in the current campaign, however, escalated the push for violence to an extreme level. The constitution guarantees the right to protest, yet DDT called the military to Washington, D.C. and used them to attack people in the Lafayette Park because he wanted a photo op.

According to D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco, federal officials stockpiled ammunition and sought devices to deafen people and make them give them second-degree burns. AG Bill Barr and DDT settled on tear gas, stun grenades, “rubber” pellets, smoke bombs, and batons. DeMarco testified protesters were not warned, and the “heat ray” wasn’t used in war for ethics’ reasons. In the past, DDT wanted to use the device on immigrants.

Throughout the protests, DDT has raised the violence level by personally blaming only the people on the left for violence although his white supremacists, who he called “GREAT PATRIOTS,” usually caused the violence. Because the far-right has the support of police to commit violence and attack demonstrators, they have become more and more open with their attacks.

Portland (OR) law enforcement stood by while the Proud Boys and other militia members carrying guns attacked demonstrators. Police didn’t fire tear gas until the white supremacists left. Albuquerque (NM) police protectively circled armed the right-wing New Mexico Civil Guard who shielded a political candidate firing into a crowd of protesters. The police then tear-gassed the protesters and called the right-wing militia “heavily armed friendlies.” Chicago police casually chatted with white men holding bats and described them as “neighborhood people just trying to protect the neighborhood.” Police told people who called 911 they should be grateful for men with clubs menacing passersby during an anti-racist demonstration in a Philadelphia neighborhood. A Hood County (TX) constable asked the Oath Keepers to protect local businesses. Curry County promoted false rumors of an “antifa invasion” to the small towns along the Oregon coast. As in the decades after the Civil War, police are participants and sometimes leaders of the extrajudicial violence. In the 21st century, law enforcement joined vigilante militias to prevent Blacks from cross through white neighborhoods in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  

With the election fewer than seven weeks away and many polls looking better for Joe Biden than DDT, the right wing is promoting more violence to keep DDT in the White House after 2020. On 9/11, the anniversary of attacks on the U.S., conservative talk show host claimed DDT “will have to… put down the enemy” after the election with military using the Insurrection Act. Levin declared, “The enemy is antifa, the enemy is Black Lives Matter…,” ignoring the use of “antifa” for anti-fascism. To Levin, anyone protesting white supremacy in favor of social justice fits the classification of “traitors” who are “treasonous.” He wants to kill them, and he has DDT’s support.  

DDT commuted Roger Stone’s sentence after he was convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress. In return, Stone promised to campaign for DDT; now he’s working with QAnon-friendly Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists to rig the elections. Stone wants DDT to declare martial law, arrest public figures such as Apple’s Tim Cook and Hillary Clinton, and “seize” voter ballots from Nevada because they are “corrupted” by “illegals.” To do this, DDT should nationalize the state police and put AG Bill Barr in charge of the FBI, federal marshals, and GOP state officials on Election Day to file legal objections and “if necessary, to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.”

Michael Caputo, Stone’s protégé and DDT’s friend, warned of left-wing “hit squads” being trained to kill people if DDT wins the election. He told people, “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.” Caputo is on a 60-day mental leave, but in HHS, he rewrote or refused to release reports written by CDC scientists so that they would match DDT’s lies. His claims lack evidence, but his statements inspire right-wingers to “buy ammunition.” 

Historian Heather Cox Richardson compared the current right wing to “southern Democratic leaders in 1860, when they knew they did not have the numbers to win the upcoming election fairly. They kept opponents from the polls, jiggered the mechanics of state elections, and warned white voters that, if Abraham Lincoln were elected, he and his dangerous radicals would destroy America. As their calls for violence escalated, they promised supporters that if it came to a fight, weak and frightened northerners would run away.”

Richardson optimistically argued against the possibility of armed conflict because the economy of the U.S. is not regionally divided and state governors have stayed quiet. She believes more in the possibility of sporadic violence from “Nazi-adjacent QAnon rumors of a Satanic cabal” and gave the example of a 17-year-old killing two people in Kenosha (WI).

Yet police-supported right-wing militias are taking over parts of Oregon. QAnon conspiracy theorists, including a former GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, are spreading rumors through social media about the “antifa” starting fires throughout the state that have burned over 1.5 million acres in a week. The current GOP candidate is also a QAnon believer. Armed people have set up checkpoints, demanding identification, threatening people, and keeping them from traveling public roads. Other right-wingers, falsely claiming to be “chapters of Antifa” have set up accounts where they claim to be setting fires. (Antifa doesn’t have “chapters.”) To push more fear, white supremacists dress up like antifa in black shirts. County sheriffs send statements that the behavior is illegal, but deputies support the illegal behavior. One Clackamas County deputy, Mark Nikolai, appeared in a video advising vigilantes how to avoid prosecution for shooting anyone they suspect of being a looter, for example putting a “knife in their hand after you shoot them.”

A sheriff sergeant was taped saying Multnomah County law enforcement is okay with “openly displaying firearms” and taking “photos of cars and even license plates” that could produce “a great resource” for police. He added, “Standing on the side of the road, parking on the side of the road, 20 deep, with signs and flashers on, that’s fantastic.” A local resident saw White’s comments as “encouragement” for vigilante action. Portland is located within Multnomah County.

DDT, the self-identified “law and order president,” told Fox’s Jeanne Pirro he believes in police shootings as retribution—the extrajudicial kind—when he talked about the police shooting death of Michael Reinoehl, a suspect in the killing of right-wing Aaron Danielson. With the Proud Boys who were attacking demonstrators in Portland with paintball guns, Danielson had been carrying a knife, according to Reinoehl. After police killed Reinoehl, witnesses stated he wasn’t holding a gun and that police in unmarked vehicles fired without announcing themselves. They said Reinoehl was walking in a parking lot, eating a gummy worm and carrying a cell phone. DDT called Reinoehl a “violent criminal” who engaged the officers in a “gunfight.” Like his praise for the 17-year-old killing demonstrators in Kenosha, DDT called their shootings “retribution.”

DDT assassinated Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the town hall, he said he wants more police force, presumably to cause more violence and deaths. He killed the Kurds to please the Turkish dictator and has no concern about the Yemen civilians who are dying because of his war. He bragged to Bob Woodward for the book Rage how he protected Mohammed bin Salman after the Saudi Crown Prince tortured, killed, and dismembered the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. He proposes to massacre people in the U.S. by encouraging deaths from COVID-19.  DDT’s indifference to human life is in the news daily. And all to please his supporters.

Steven Levitsky, author of How Democracies Die, wrote about DDT’s support of white supremacist militias, “The public embrace of militias and paramilitaries is clearly recognizable authoritarian behavior.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of a forthcoming book on authoritarian leaders Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, compared DDT’s behavior to Mussolini’s use to violence to destabilize violence in order to claim he is the person to stop the violence. Levitsky said:

“The only way you can avoid violence, and perhaps a constitutional crisis, is if the political leadership moves to de-escalate things and demobilize their bases. Trump is doing precisely the opposite of that.”

U.S. COVID-19 cases: 6,874,596; deaths, 202,213. DDT wants “herd mentality” [sic], meaning 215 million cases and 6.386 million deaths—in the U.S. from the virus.

September 14, 2020

Jamil Smith: ‘The No Lives Matter President’

From The Rolling Stone:

“Trump’s damning admissions on the Woodward tapes betray not merely his duty and the country, but even his promises to white America to keep them safe.”

Oregon governor Kate Brown, until Friday, could not get President Donald Trump on the phone. She noted this the day before, when she also revealed her state has never seen this amount of uncontained wildfire. The skies have turned into a literal hellscape and more than one million acres have burned to date, double what the state normally sees in a year. Right now, about half a million Oregonians are facing evacuation orders. At least five people there have died, and dozens more are missing. And yet, the White House hadn’t returned a governor’s call for aid.

Trump finally spoke with Brown that night, she said Friday. By her account, he said that “you have all of our support, please let us know what you need, and God bless Oregon.” But she already had been making it clear: the day before, Brown told reporters the state needed the Department of Defense to send an active battalion trained in firefighting. It needed National Guard assistance from other states. The emergency declaration didn’t even come until the middle of this week, and the fires have been burning, uncontained, since August. [Ed. Note: Trump’s Defense Department sent six large firefighter Chinook helicopters and 60 trained firefighters to Afghanistan in May to move cargo. They are still there.]

Oregon was founded just before the Civil War as a segregationist’s promised land. It didn’t allow black people to live there until 1926. It still has a lot of white people. They make up nearly 87 percent of the state. Granted, they live in a state that tends to vote Democratic. But their being white, one might think, would have interested Trump and made Brown’s plea unnecessary.  This president of late has made it crystal clear that his primary, if not sole, desire is to paint himself as the man to keep white people safe.

He’ll guard federal employees from the scourge of terms like “white privilege” and “critical race theory,” and will keep children from learning about the country’s fraught history with racism by reading the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, published last summer. The white suburbanites, he’ll protect from the supposed hordes of poor, black people who are threatening to further diversify their neighborhoods.

When those neighborhoods are on fire, though, where is this supposed “defender of white America,” as a New York Times report labeled him last week? We know that both he and his son can stick up for the young terrorist who killed two in Kenosha, Wisconsin. But what about doing something about racist terrorism, which provably endangers people of all backgrounds? And where was this concern for white people when the nation needed to know what he knew about the novel coronavirus back in February, when that knowledge could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives?

As we mark the 19th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks this week, we are faced with new evidence and allegations that underscore why the president is himself a national security threat. First, he is indifferent to actual threats of terrorism. Whistleblower Brian Murphy came forward this week to claim that to protect the president’s ego and his political interests, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli ordered officials to both “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference” and to downplay the nation’s top domestic terror threat, white-supremacist violence, in favor of prosecuting leftists.

Trump’s audiotaped interviews with journalist Bob Woodward further revealed a president with an utter disregard for both the truth and human life. They’ll try, but it may be tough for the “All Lives Matter” crowd to justify their president saying, out loud and on the record, that he was deliberately lying to the American public about the lethality of Covid-19.

The disease has killed more [almost 200,000] people to date, and yes, the toll has been disproportionately heavy on black, Latina, and indigenous communities. Trump made it clear to Woodward that he couldn’t give a damn about us, scoffing when the author asked him whether they as white men of privilege have a duty to “understand the anger and pain” of black Americans. But Covid-19 has also killed tens of thousands of white people, which is something, theoretically, Trump would care about. Nearly all of them have died in the time since he told journalist Bob Woodward on February 7th that “you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.” Trump also confessed that Covid-19 was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu” and that “this is deadly stuff,” noting that the death rates could be as high as 5% of the American population. But he later compared it to the flu several times in the days, weeks, and months afterwards, even as he would tell Woodward privately that “playing down” the crisis was done to project strength.

Trump repeated that defense to ABC’s Jon Karl at the White House, who bluntly asked the president why he’d lied to the public and why he should be believed at all going forward. In an alarming display of toxic bravado, Trump said that “I want to show a level of confidence, and I want to show strength as a leader.” Without recognizing that faith without works is dead, Trump added that “I want to show that our country is going to be fine one way or the other whether we lose one person.”

The presidency’s real draw for Trump is clear: the ability to use the government to service his personal desires and transform his ethnic hatreds into policy. He has been immensely successful, in many respects, in institutionalizing white power within the courts and through his legislation and rhetoric. His stupidity and incompetence can cloud our ability to recognize his evil.

Trump has governed with malevolence from the very start, issuing unnecessary travel bans and locking up immigrant children. But with regards to the pandemic and the threat of domestic terrorism, Trump also has been utterly cavalier with virtually every American life but his own. What we now know, because it’s on tape, is that he consciously allowed his misbegotten notions of masculinity and fortitude to place millions of Americans in danger. Moreover, not only did he falsely profess Covid-19 would go away and promote dangerous miracle cures, Trump purposefully undermined the people who were trying to make it go away. And that is not merely unforgivable, in an ideal world, it would be prosecutable.

It may have taken learning that he has a kind of Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy, and has allowed the nation to get sick, for many to understand how evil he is. The Woodward tapes show that he obscures his malice with stupidity and incompetence, and too many fall for it. I don’t have much hope for a national moment of clarity, even after this. Asking Americans to vote altruistically is a sucker’s bet. If the pandemic has taught us anything, catering to their self-interest is essential. I can only pray, perhaps quixotically, that others who feel less threatened by his willful negligence now understand how he endangers them, as well.

That, however, is the dilemma of elevating a president on a platform of misogyny and white supremacy. Both of those social maladies are watered by violence and death, and never in our nation’s history has that violence and death touched merely those marginalized people whom it is meant to target. Bigotry kills us all, and as this administration began discouraging safe practices shown to stem the coronavirus pandemic, its danger should have been evident to every sick and bereaved white person in America.

Trump should resign the presidency today. He won’t, and we’ll just have to wait until the November election for the chance to fire him. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be demanding it. The offenses revealed by Woodward’s tapes are that egregious. Iif the whistleblower’s complaint is accurate, that is only further justification.

Moreover, his quotes to Woodward about the coronavirus only belie his promises to make life safer for white people in America, underscoring that whatever security he provides them is false. Frankly, for the sake of the republic, we can only hope that this week’s revelations scare white people in ways that he never intended.

I say that because the time for winning hearts and minds is over. This is a frightening America Trump has constructed. It is past time that those Americans who do not regularly feel threatened in it come to share our dread. When compared to the reality that we face — threatened by climate change, by domestic terrorism, and by a pandemic that Trump lets spread with abandon — will enough white people vote to preserve themselves, or instead their feelings of safety and superiority? The election will likely turn on that question.

September 12, 2020

DDT: Week 190 – More Struggles for White House

The busy week of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) included lots of backlashes—Bob Woodward’s book Rage revealing more of DDT’s personal opinion than he would like; a continuation of his calling captured, wounded, and killed military members “losers” and “suckers”; the bad economy; his campaign woes; and people fighting back against DDT, to name a few.

But there’s more publicity about DDT:

Thursday, the day before the 9/11 anniversary, DDT told a rally audience Joe Biden would invite “terrorists” into the suburbs by allowing refugees into the U.S. On the same day, the Afghan government, under pressure by DDT, released high-value Taliban prisoners who killed U.S. troops. DDT bragged about how “very, very well” he is getting along at the Taliban.

Following the pattern of other agencies to produce fake news, HHS communications aides changed CDC reports to match DDT’s happy statements about beating COVID-19. After former DDT campaign official DHS assistant secretary for public affairs Mike Caputo took over, he and his deputies demanded pre-pub access to the weekly Morbidity and Mortality reports and altered the scientists’ statements. They also tried to delay and even stop the release of other reports. Caputo accused CDC of undermining DDT “to hurt” him. DDT’s message is the virus will “disappear” and the U.S. is “rounding the corner” although statistics show the opposite.  

DDT’s real infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has tired of being DDT’s parrot; he disagreed with DDT’s assessment and gave the figures shown by the nonpartisan Worldometer. Fauci called the numbers “disturbing.” He added, “A degree of normality … is going to be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021.” The high baseline at this time is of concern to Fauci because winter will make it worse. DDT’s resumed rallies are “absolutely” risky.

According to CDC—more reliable than DDT’s wishful thinking—adults eating at restaurants have contacted COVID-19 twice as much, and those going to bars three times more within two weeks prior to getting sick. Other activities didn’t show much of a difference, but wearing a mask cannot be effectively done while a person is eating or drinking.

The initial publicity for Woodward’s book about DDT stated 18 interviews, but Woodward said there’s a 19th interview—like waiting for a shoe to drop.

DDT’s Labor Department determined that a worker’s life is worth a little over $10 when Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Smithfield’s South Dakota meatpacking plant $13,494 for at least 1,294 infections, 43 hospitalizations, and four deaths.

“I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” DDT’s former national security adviser John Bolton wrote in his recent book. With tremendous disasters in three Democratic states on the West Coast, DDT has made no mention other than to criticize lack of forest management and the need to sweep the forest floors. His silence covers three major areas of DDT positions: hatred for Democratic states, ignorance of climate change science, and a total failure of personal empathy. He has a chance to make up the omission when he goes to California on Monday after a weekend of electioneering. His comments will be “interesting.”

Oregon is on fire, and DDT’s Defense Department sent 60 trained National Guard firefighters and six huge firefighting helicopters from Oregon to Afghanistan to move cargo. DDT’s lies about the danger of anarchists and antifa in Oregon have made the state’s fires worse. His supporters are waiting to shoot them. Portland videographer and Army veteran Gabriel Trumbly was the subject of social media along with his partner Jennifer Paulsen after the filmed the fire at Paulsen’s childhood home of Molalla, population 9,000. Social media posts claimed they were part of antifa, left-wing anti-fascists who DDT calls a “terrorist organization,” attempting to commit arson. Hundreds of comments to a post saying Trumbly and Paulsen had started a fire included “Send people out with guns!” Armed men pursued the couple. The Molalla Police Department supported the false rumor on its Facebook page by asking people to “report any suspicious activity” including “strange people.” A response, “Make them dig a grave then shoot them.” Among other sources, right-wing website the Biggs Report claimed antifa members were starting fires through the Pacific Northwest.

By now, most of the police have asserted the rumors are false, but a Clackamas County (OR) deputy continued to spread the false rumor and added that the “antifa” were attacking firefighters. The losing GOP candidate for U.S. Senator, Paul Romero, continued to tweet the lies and refused to remove them. A member of the students conservative organization Turning Point USA also passed along the lies about the arsonists. The group’s founder, Charlie Kirk, was the first speaker for DDT’s convention last month. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) struggled to explain their signs had no connection with Black Lives Matter. Facebook waited two days before it started removing the deadly false rumors.

The people threatening to kill the “antifa” may be the same people who believe God will protect them from COVID-19. They follow DDT’s approach of fear and blame—fear of losing physical and financial safety as well as “freedom” and “culture” by anyone who doesn’t look and act like the fearful. Yet, they are selective about God’s protection from a life-threatening pandemic but not the “vengeful mob” created by DDT.

In more lies from the White House, Katie Waldman, VP Mike Pence’s press secretary and racist Stephen Miller’s wife, pushed NBC reporter Julia Ainsley to falsify the report on known or suspected terrorists at the southern border. Waldman wanted the number 4,000 instead of the Customs and Border Protection report to Congress of six. Yes, six. Waldman told Ainsley she would discredit the reporter’s article because DHS has different numbers they won’t give Congress. Neither action happened, and Waldman refused comment on the record about the NBC report.

Publicly, GOP senators say they don’t pay attention to the news when asked about the revelations in Bob Woodward’s book Rage, or they believe he was trying to stop a panic. Privately, they’re upset about DDT talking to Woodward. Not about DDT’s lying—just his giving interviews proving he lies.

To fly agents to Washington last summer, DHS moved immigrant detainees from Arizona, Florida, and Texas facilities to Virginia because the government can’t charter planes to move only the agents who DDT wanted. The transfer caused infections in 399 inmates and killed a 72-year-old Canadian national. DHS also lied about the originating facilities being at capacity, and staff members in Virginia sometimes failed to wear masks and kept working after they were sick. A new GAO report stated the federal teams were part of DDT’s efforts to “dominate” racial equity demonstrations nationwide in Washington, Buffalo, New York, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. More recently, federal agents were sent to Kenosha (WI) and Portland (OR). D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had not asked for help with the mostly peaceful protesters. As of last week, 5,670 cases of COVID-19 have been detected within the average daily detainee population of 24,208.

DDT’s campaign attacked Biden for “meandering along” when he visited the graveyard where his first wife, infant daughter, and military veteran son are buried after he attended religious services. Neither DDT nor anyone in his campaign apologized for the insensitivity despite angry responses, and the campaign didn’t remove the email

Last week, when DDT was asked why he didn’t try to negotiate with congressional Democratic leaders for a deal to help people hurting from COVID-19, he said, “I know my customers; that’s what I do.” He then said they wouldn’t make a deal “because they think it’s good for politics … good for the economy.” He claims, “I don’t need to meet with them to be turned down.” DDT thinks everyone follows his values and thought patterns. The people he should help are “customers”; everyone’s in it for themselves; and he’s positive they won’t negotiate.

Democratic leaders already passed the CARES Act to help people, came down $1 trillion dollars to negotiate the HEROES Act, and turned down the GOP bill because there was nothing in for people—just more for DDT and big business. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s $300 billion bill has no funding for individuals, cities and states, but it allows businesses to escape liability for irresponsibility with the virus and a tax credit for students to attend private schools.

South Carolina’s sample ballots left off Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris but included candidates for the Green, Alliance, and Libertarian parties in addition to GOP DDT.

James Spillane, a New Hampshire GOP representative, told his Facebook followers to burn and loot any houses with Black Lives Matter signs.

House Republican Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told an Axios reporter he tried to tell DDT his war on mail-in voting could cause the GOP to lose the 2020 election. Other congressional Republicans are privately concerned.

Always lower on the weekend, the 24-hour count for U.S. COVID-19 cases: 39,282 new cases (total 6,676,601); 707 new deaths (total 198,128).

May 2, 2016

Women Not Protected from Unintended Pregnancies Should Have the Right to Abortions

“No woman ever wants an abortion.” That was Michele Stranger-Hunter’s introduction to her talk about a program called “One Key Question” at a recent NOW meeting in Newport (OR). Yet women continue to obtain legal—and illegal—abortions throughout the United States because they are not protected from these pregnancies. Under ten percent of these abortions are because of health reasons for either or both of the pregnant woman and the fetus, and about 90 percent of all abortions are performed at under 13 weeks. Stranger-Hunter (below, left) is the executive director of the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon.

Michele Stranger-Hunter with Gloria Steinem

Because women don’t want to have abortions, it is vital to provide women of reproductive age to have access to contraception and an understanding of how to use the method that they use. Stranger-Hunter said that the Affordable Care Act “is the best thing that happened to women in my lifetime.” Yet

Stranger-Hunter said that her organization plans to push proactive legislation for women’s reproductive rights in Oregon’s 2017 legislative session. “No other state ever tries to help women,” she said. The group laid the foundation for these bills in 2015 for comprehensive women’s health and a basic health plan ensuring that everyone have equitable access to quality health care. As the group’s members worked with legislators who they had endorsed, however, they discovered that these lawmakers were unwilling to use the term abortion, and the group’s bill died. Since that time, Oregon NARAL’s PAC has revised its endorsement procedures to include only people willing to actually use the word “abortion” as shown by interviews and questionnaires. “We need legislators who will commit,” Stranger-Hunter said. In Oregon, 64 percent of the voters favor a bill that covers the full range of reproductive services, including abortion. Only 29 percent of voters disagree.

The “One Key Question” (OKQ) program began after research showed that doctors didn’t talk to women about birth control. That isn’t “just an Oregon thing,” Stranger-Hunter said. It happens all over the country. That may be one reason that one-half of all women will have had an unintended pregnancy by the age of 45. And half of all pregnancies are unintended.

Fertility is a “chronic condition,” said Stranger-Hunter. Women are fertile for 39 years and spend at least 30 of those years trying to avoid pregnancies. The poorer women are, the more unintended pregnancies (IP) they have. Of women in the 200+ poverty range, only 20 percent have an IP; 112 percent of the women under that level of wealth have IPs.

Pregnancies can be deadly for women in the U.S.: in a quarter of a century, maternal deaths from childbirth have increased 150 percent from 7.2 per 100,000 births in 1987 to 18.5 in 2013. At the same time, almost all the other countries in the world are seeing fewer maternal deaths. For every woman who dies from maternal deaths,  another 75 experience a near-fatal emergency during pregnancy or childbirth such as heart attacks, kidney failure or profuse bleeding—also increases in recent years.

Bad health care has been given as a major reason for these deaths and other disasters. Stranger-Hunter listed other reasons: physical abuse, depression, and emotional problems. Women’s health care is “fragmented,” many times between two doctors. Half of all fertile women are on medications for depression, and 10 to 15 percent of congenital birth problems come from these meds. About 98 percent of pregnancies among female opioid users are unintended.

While states introduce thousands of bills to make abortions harder to obtain, none of them is doing anything to fight maternal deaths by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The “One Key Question” program, while not legally mandated, is a beginning.

The goal of this program is to have every woman of reproductive age be asked “would you like to become pregnant in the next year?” Stranger-Hunter described this approach as a non-threatening approach that leads to a dialog with the health practitioner. Depending on the answer—yes, no, don’t know, or fine either way—the clinician can present suggestions for helping the woman successfully achieve her goal. With “yes” or “fine,” women can prepare her body for a healthy pregnancy and fetus by considering medications, taking folic acid, and knowing about other health options such as screening for infections and a dental check-up. “No” leads to a discussion of effective contraception and important information such as the 85 percent chance of becoming pregnant for sexual activity with men with no birth control. An answer of “don’t know” can lead to evaluating choices.

In Oregon, care providers for low-income women—home visiting staff, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization–are starting to routinely ask families One Key Question at intake. Questioners have found that patients, especially those who have little control over their lives because of poverty or abuse, like the wording that shifts the focus from long-term planning to immediate desires. National professional organizations are taking note as well, with the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health expressing their support.

Michele Stranger-Hunter shows that just one woman can make a huge difference. The One Key Question program began from her fact-finding tour of hospitals and clinics across the state in 2009. Now 20 states are asking that question on a volunteer basis. Heavy reliance on computerization has kept some large medical groups from incorporating this question because it needs to be built into the electronic software. Legislatures, however, should put this concept into law: for ever $1 spent on family planning, $4 are saved. The cost barrier for many women’s contraceptives has been removed through the Affordable Care Act, but advances in birth control methods have made the woman’s decision more complicated.

OKQ won’t stop the need for all abortions, however. Contraception can fail, and health problems will continue to plague pregnant women and fetuses, especially with bad health care in many of the states across the nation. The biggest problem with legal abortion at this time is its inaccessibility. Fewer than one-fourth of the counties in Oregon have clinics that provide abortions, and these are largely along the I-5 corridor, requiring woman from smaller counties to travel long distances, sometimes hundreds of miles, and spend the night away from home. The abortion costs an average of $451 which is usually not paid by insurance. And Oregon is better off than the five other states that have only one clinic in the entire state and the huge state of Texas that is still trying to cut down to nine women’s clinics for its 5,404,124 women of reproductive age.

One help for women with lodging and transportation costs comes from the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health (OFRH) in the form of the Spring Adams Fund. It was started in 1989 after a 13-year-old girl in Boise (ID) was sexually abused by her father. The Idaho Health Department suggested Portland (OR) for a location where she could get an abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon found the funds to pay for transportation and lodging, but the night before Spring was scheduled to make the six-hour trip to Portland, her father shot and killed her in her bed. More information about this fund is here.

At this time, Oregon is the only state in the nation that has not passed anti-choice laws either through the legislature or the voter initiative process allowing individuals to put statutory and constitutional measures on the ballot. It may stay that way after a judge ruled that language in a proposed ballot measure from anti-choice Oregon Life Unified is too “fuzzy” and sent the initiative back to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for modification of the ballot initiative verbiage. The state supreme court ruled that the initiative must clearly state that its effect is to deny access to abortion care coverage to Oregon’s low-income residents. Reproductive advocates who petitioned the court argued that the proposed amendment to the state constitution would allow coverage only to women with private health insurance. Signatures for the necessary 117,578 are still being collected for the misnamed Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act of 2016.

Until every woman is protected from unintended pregnancies, all women should have the right to have access to abortions.

April 9, 2016

Nestle in Oregon = Possible Water Shortages

Filed under: Privatization — trp2011 @ 7:34 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The media’s obsession with the current—and on-going—presidential election process, you may have missed World Water Day on March 22 to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. One huge company, Nestle, is contributing to the lack of fresh water in the world as it bottles ground water and leaves people already in poverty with the filthy remains. For example, when the company dug a deep well in the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, the water level sank over 200 feet from its original 100 feet. Children can either drink the dirty water or use bottled water—that their families can’t afford to buy. Every day more children die from drinking dirty water than AIDS, war, traffic accidents and malaria put together.

a.gorgeNot satisfied with plundering foreign countries and other parts of the U.S., Nestle wants Oregon’s water. The Columbia River Gorge, east of Portland (OR), is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Millions of tourists visit its scenic wonders, including the largest number of waterfalls in the country. Just 200 yards from Mt. Hood National Forest’s northern boundary, Oxbow Springs flows out of the ground into the Herman Creek watershed, known for its exemplary trail system. Herman Creek also provides refuge for threatened steelhead and salmon.

A. waterfallIn the past eight years, Oxbow Springs has gained fame as the public water source where Nestle wants to bottle over 100 million gallons of water each year. In exchange for depleting the state’s water and 200 daily semi-truck trips through the small town of Cascade Locks, Nestle has promised “up to” 50 jobs each paying about $10 per hour. They seemed fairly close to success after Ted Kulongoski, governor in 2010, ordered the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to permanently transfer its water right, with no public interest assessment, to the huge corporation for .2 cents per gallon—less than the cost for residents.

In a David versus Goliath battle, some Oregonians decided to fight back. Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs tribal members protested the deal, and Anna Mae Leonard, 57, held a five-day hunger strike in Cascade Locks last August. She said that the state’s deal between the state and the town violates the Treaty of 1855 between the U.S. and the Four Columbia River Tribes giving Senior Water Rights to the tribes. The tribes of the Gorge depend on selling salmon caught in the town of Cascade Locks for their economy.

In the past few months, Hood River County residents have gathered enough signatures for a ballot measure to prohibit commercial bottling operations in the county, and current governor, Kate Brown, asked ODFW and Oregon Water Resources Department to withdraw applications and go back to a direct water exchange requiring a more robust public interest review. She cited the “historic drought Oregon faced this year” as a reason for greater public involvement.

The battle is heating up as the May 17 election nears. The ballot measure proposes blocking the Nestle plant by banning any water bottling operation producing 1,000 gallons or more a day. Nestle plans to package 11 times that much in each hour. Nestle supporters have established a political group called Coalition for a Strong Gorge Economy. While both sides await the election, state water officials are reviewing the applications Nestle needs to access Oxbow’s water. That process could take several more years.

Although some people watching the current rainfall might assume that the drought in Oregon is over, much of the water for the state comes from the snowpack, historically bad last year and the worst for the Mt. Hood snowpack since it began gathering information in 1980. The year 2015 marks the fourth consecutive year of drought for the U.S. West, causing water shortages and huge wildfires—the greatest level of devastation seen only in six other years since 1960.

Even Washington state’s Queets rain forest, which usually receives an annual rainfall of over 200 inches, burned last year. Lack of snowpack from the warm winter (14 percent of usual) combined with an exceedingly hot, dry spring caused the biggest fire since the park was established over 100 years ago by Theodore Roosevelt. The natural fire cycle in this forest is about 500 to 800 years, but three fires have occurred in just the past 50 years, each one progressively worse. The fire that covered four square miles for almost six months wasn’t extinguished until after a heavy rainfall from a series of storms.

Nestle has been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest without a permit for the past 27 years. Forced to apply for another permit, they can keep plundering California by paying an annual fee of $524. California cannot find out how much water Nestle is taking out of the state because the company does not have to divulge this information.

The eight states with the most severe to exceptional drought conditions directly affecting approximately over 50 million people of the United States are Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and South Carolina. In California, 46 percent of the land area is in a state of exceptional drought conditions. A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported:

 “Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years.”

People in other states are indirectly affected from reduced food supplies. The Great Plains states rely on groundwater while the West needs surface water, hopefully replenished by spring thaw of the snowpack levels. Even western Gulf Coast region states experiencing severe flooding during the wet season of May, June, and July such as Texas had no rain since, putting them quickly back into drought.

The effects of climate change caused the worst drought on record in Syria between 2006 and 2011, creating instability for farmers and threatening the country’s food supply. Syria’s lack of water started from poor management 40 years ago and resulted in the current problem of refugees. This paper shows the link between climate change and the rise of ISIS.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense–funded Strauss Center project on Climate Change and African Political Stability, increasing events of floods and drought have turned agricultural land into desert, and heat waves are killing crops and farm animals.  The forced migration to cities will stress already unstable governments and create the same sort of chaos as exists in Syria.  The global emphasis, including within the United States, on corporate agriculture practices such as Monsanto and Syngenta relies on vast amounts of energy, water and fossil fuel based synthetic pesticides. This model of agriculture uses 80 percent of the world’s arable land and 70 percent of the world’s water while contributing more to climate change than organic farming does.

Nestle’s solution to global water issues is privatization of water sources. The jobs that they create lure people into giving them water-well privileges and tax breaks over private citizens. Nestle, which takes almost one billion gallons from water-starved California and more water from suburban Michigan well-water leaves the public to suffer any shortages. The company’s chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believes that “access to water is not a public right.” Nor a human right.

nestle-subsidiaries

Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company with over 8,000 brands, 447 factories, 333,000 employees, and operations in 194 countries. Twenty nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year, and in total, they have over 8,000 brands. In addition to creating water shortages, the company uses slaves and children for labor around the world.

Water shortage has many reasons other than climate change: fracking, oil disasters, mining waste, industrial agriculture pollution, disposal of drugs, etc. Bottling water is still an important piece of the picture. This year people think that Oregon has plenty of water, but climate change—and Nestle—may change that. And your state may be next. Water should be a right; people shouldn’t be forced to purchase it because of corporate control.

[Thanks to Ann Hubard for photographs]

March 8, 2016

International Women’s Day: U.S. Behind in Gender Parity

Today is International Women’s Day. Around the world, people, countries, and organizations celebrate progress for women’s parity and advocate for change to improve gender equality and women’s rights. Although the UN declared this official commemoration only 40 years ago, its seeds came on March 8, 1857, when garment workers marched and picketed in New York City, demanding a ten-hour day, better working conditions, and equal rights for women. The police broke up the march, and the next march occurred 51 years later when women in needle trades honored the 1857 march by demanding the vote and an end to sweatshops and child labor.

A tradition of women’s unions came after the Civil War when widowhood and poverty forced women into the labor force, much to the hostility of men who refused to allow women into their unions. Women cigar makers, umbrella sewers, printers, tailoresses, and laundresses formed unions. The most famous union came from clothing workers, especially the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, founded about 1900. At that time, women worked in horrible conditions with no overtime pay and were fined for anything—talking, singing, etc. The formation of the National Women’s Trade Union League in 1903 led to strikes against two companies, one of them the Triangle Waist Company where 146 people died in a fire after being trapped by locked doors. Judges ruled against women who were clubbed by police while picketing, claiming that they were “on strike against God.”

The first National Women’s Day in the United States was February 28, 1909 after a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. In 1910, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed the commemoration of the U.S. demonstrations on March 8 to honor working women throughout the world. By 1913, when Russia first celebrated Women’s Day, countries settled on March 8 for the date of International Women’s Day. Participation of Russian women textile workers in a mass strike in 1917 helped spark the Russian Revolution. By 1965, the USSR declared Women’s Day as a non-working day, and IWD is an official holiday in 15 countries including China, Ukraine and Vietnam.. In China, women began celebrating in 1924 with a strong women’s movement in the Communist party.

Remarkable working women activists in the United States include Mother Jones, Ella Reeve Bloor, Kate Mullaney, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. At the age of 90, Jones terrorized scabs in the 1919 steel strike. Joining these women were untold numbers of unnamed women who knew that they needed to stand and work together to keep from being individually destroyed. Among these were the women in the Lawrence textile strike who carried picket signs reading “We want Bread and Roses, too.” From this demand for a living wage with a decent and human life came James Oppenheim’s song “Bread and Roses”:

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of, the day,

A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray

Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses

For the people hear us singing, Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

 

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.

The rising of the women means the rising of the race,

No more the drudge and idler that toil where one reposes

But a sharing of life’s glories, Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Pledge for Parity,” calling for complete gender equality and the closing of the gender gap in social, economic, political, and other situations. Unlike countries such as Afghanistan and China, the United States does not formally recognize March 8 by giving time off work.

Women in the U.S. lack the same equality as women in many other countries. A survey regarding the best countries for women to live in shows the United States to be 13th. Rankings were determined by five factors: concern for human rights, gender equality, income equality, safety, and progressiveness. The top seven in ranking are mostly European nations with Denmark rated #1 for its earnings-related daycare system and flexible parental leave policies. Sweden is the top in gender equality with women politicians taken half the positions in the Swedish Parliament, education in sexism beginning in kindergarten, and freed education for all.

Canada falls in third place with its quality of health, workplace opportunities, and freedom from violence. Canadian women have access to contraception, and 33 percent of federally appointed judges are women. In the United States, about one-third of the courts—including the Supreme Court—are women.

I repeat: the United States is 13th in ranking.

Other ways in which U.S. women’s equality falls behind that in other countries:

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): Only seven of the 193 member states of the UN have not ratified this “international bill of rights for women” to end discrimination, establish equality, and fight against violence—Iran, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of CEDAW, adopted by the UN in 1979; the issue has never even gotten to the Senate floor for a vote.

Guaranteed paid leave for mothers of newborns: Only nine countries in the world do not provide this benefit—Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Tonga. Five of these countries—but not the United States—do provide paid maternity leave for public sector workers. Also, 49 percent of countries, including Saudi Arabia, provide paid leave to both parents.

Wage equality: Of 142 countries, the United States ranks 65th in pay equality for similar work. Countries where women are better off include the United Arab Emirates, the Kyrgyz Republic, Egypt, Iceland, Japan, Botswana, Honduras, and Ethiopia. The top five are Burundi, Mongolia, Qatar, Thailand, and Malaysia. In 2013, women who worked full-time, were paid 78 cents for every dollar earned on average by men. Black women made 64 cents, and Latinas made 56 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.

Congress: The United States now has more women in Congress than ever—104 of 535 seats. That’s 19.5 percent at a time when women make up 51 percent of the population. This nation ranks in the bottom half of the world’s national parliaments—72nd of 139 spots with almost 50 ties in the 190 countries, in female population.

Female Head of State: During the past 50 year, 52 other countries—including India for 21 years—have had women leading the country. Other countries with women in charge include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Liberia and China.

Constitutions: Of the 197 constitutions throughout the world, 165—about 84 percent—explicitly guarantee gender equality. But not the U.S. Constitution. Some people have claimed that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment may protect women, but at least one Supreme Court justice—Antonin Scalia—has said that women are not protected by the nation’s constitution. Since the U.S. drafted the post-World War II Japanese constitution, which included equal rights for women, women in Japan have more rights than those in the United States. The Equal Rights Amendment, meant to give women in this nation the protections in other countries, was first introduced to Congress in 1923. Both houses of Congress passed it in 1972, but by the 1982 deadline it fell short of the 38 states necessary for ratification by three states.

One reason for women’s oppression comes from female legislators who oppose equal rights. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Jackie Black (R-TN) work in the U.S. House to keep women from having reproductive rights, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted against giving women equal pay in the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Phyllis Schafley, leader of the Eagle Forum, was instrumental in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment.

In my beloved state of Oregon, House members decided to replace its two statues in the U.S. Capitol’s Statutory Hall. After a popular vote from the people, a commission selected Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe and Abigail Scott Duniway, an activist largely instrumental in gaining women’s suffrage in Oregon before a federal amendment mandated women’s right to vote. Yet an overwhelming House vote chose Mark Hatfield instead of Duniway because the bill’s sponsor was mentored by the long-time influential GOP senator. All the 20 women in the Oregon House—one-third of the chamber—voted against Duniway except one who was excused. At this time, only ten women—ten percent of the total—are represented in Statutory Hall. Just one small example of many showing how females continue to be disadvantaged because many women refuse to support gender equality.

August 6, 2015

GOP Determined to Repeat Past Mistakes

Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act enforced constitution rights for millions of people by removing the rights of states to disenfranchise people from this right. It has been called the most effective piece of legislation ever enacted in the United States. After the Supreme Court struck down some of its provisions two years ago, the number of draconian laws begun with the GOP sweeps in 2010 rapidly accelerated to prevent people from voting by mandating photo IDS, restricting times to vote, and shutting down voter registration drives. Chief Justice John Roberts had written in the majority opinion, “things have changed in the South.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent argued that the justices had stripped the provisions that made the Voting Rights Act a success. She wrote:

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

The rainstorm has flooded the country throughout the past four years. From 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in forty-nine states (Idaho is the lone exception). Half the states in the country have adopted measures making it harder to vote.

voting_2011

In the first few weeks of this year, 40 new voting restrictions were introduced in 17 states. The Supreme Court wrote in its ruling that Congress could pass a law to allow people to vote, but the GOP-controlled federal legislature has refused to take any steps in this direction.

As with other issues of inequality, the courts have begun to act. Yesterday, the 5th Circuit Court, one of the most conservative appeals courts in the nation, used what remains of the Voting Rights Act to strike down a voter suppression law in Texas. The unanimous opinion from a three-judge panel and written by a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that the photo ID requirement is illegal under Section 2, because of the negative impact it has on the voting opportunities of minorities and the poor, and that a lower court must reopen the case to determine a legal remedy for the violation. That court must also further examine the law for intentional discrimination by lawmakers.

Judge Catharina Haynes’ ruling agreed with an analysis that “Hispanic registered voters and Black registered voters were respectively 195% and 305% more likely than their Anglo peers to lack” a voter ID in the state of Texas. Texas’ own expert “found that 4% of eligible White voters lacked SB 14 ID, compared to 5.3% of eligible Black voters and 6.9% of eligible Hispanic voters.” Low-income voters are also less likely to have ID: “testimony [showed] that 21.4% of eligible voters earning less than $20,000 per year lack SB 14 ID, compared to only 2.6% of voters earning between $100,000 and $150,000 per year.”

People trying to restrict laws, although sometimes open about their desire to stop votes for Democrats, also claim voter fraud—a situation that rarely exists. In a Wisconsin study, the 2004 election had seven cases of fraud in three million votes, and none of these cases could have been stopped by a voter ID law. Iowa found exactly zero (0) cases of in-person fraud during several elections.

The court’s suggestion was that a lower court either reinstate voter registration cards or allow someone to sign an affidavit saying that they lack an acceptable form of identification before they vote. Last October, a federal judge called the law an unconstitutional “poll tax” that was intentionally discriminatory, but the Supreme Court allowed the law to be in effect of November’s midterm election with over 600,000 Texas unable to vote because they lacked the state-mandated type of voter ID. Gun licenses were acceptable, but student IDs were not.

The court’s decision is not a definite win, but it moves in the right direction. Although the ruling did not explain whether Texas needed to get official permission before changing its election or voting laws, it is the first circuit court opinion against a voter ID law and against the enforcement of it. State officials can either ask for a new review from all judges in the 5th Circuit or go back to the Supreme Court. With the stronger Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act eliminated, plaintiffs must rely on the weaker Section 5 which requires that plaintiffs cannot file until after they have suffered discrimination. Thus they have already lost the constitutional right to vote.

State officials in Texas now have two options:  to seek a new review by the full Fifth Circuit, which would set aside the panel ruling, or to go directly to the Supreme Court as the next step.

In California, tens of thousands of residents will be able to vote after the state dropped its appeal of a court decision that gives voting rights to people who left prison and completed parole and are now under county supervision. When the state shifted low-level offenders into county custody, a former secretary of state, Debra Bowen, ruled that the same state law barring people in prison or on parole for felony convictions applied to ex-offenders under county supervision. The current secretary of state, Alejandro “Alex” Padilla, said:

“No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”

While 113 bills to restrict voting access have been introduced or carried over in 33 states this year, four times as many—464 bills—are circulating in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Only one state, North Dakota, has managed to pass a voter ID bill this year; all others failed. Arizona and North Carolina have ongoing lawsuits.

The grandest law passed came from my home state of Oregon. All eligible citizens with driver’s license and don’t ask to stay unregistered are automatically registered to vote. The state’s “motor-voter” law is now being introduced in 14 other states as well as District of Columbia. Some of these states have bills to automatically register citizens conducting business with other government agencies. Vermont passed a bill to establish Election Day registration, and Indiana enacted a bill to allow state agencies that issue SNAP and TANF benefits to electronically transfer voter registration information to election officials (which is currently in place only at the DMV). A bill to restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions passed the Maryland legislature but vetoed by the governor may have enough votes to override the veto.

Yesterday, Rep. Chuck Schumer (NY) introduced three bills to make voting easier for all citizens in every state—online registration, seven days of early voting plus absentee ballots for anyone, and same-day voting for people who moved within the state where they registered.

House Democrats said they would even drop bills against Confederate flags for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act that passed nine years ago and was partially struck down by the Supreme Court. The GOP isn’t interested. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has refused to have an up-or-down floor vote, and the Judiciary Committee chair, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) likes the status quo.

Today is another anniversary, the 70th anniversary since the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Military leaders opposed dropping the atomic bomb, but politicians told President Harry Truman that it needed to be done. Top American military leaders, mostly conservatives, who fought World War II declared that dropping the bomb was unnecessary because Japan was on the verge of surrender and the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral. Adm. William Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir:

“The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.… in being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

The war hawks seem aimed toward another nuclear disaster, claiming that the president was wrong for not putting more pressure on Iran through sanctions. President Obama responded that other countries—Russia, China, France, Great Britain, and Germany—to go along with that argument. After the existing diplomacy, the only option is military action. His talking points are here. President Obama was more direct in his speech at American University when he talked about how U.S. Republicans hope to give extremist Iranians, who hate the Iran deal, exactly what they want.

Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act made voting a reality for people in the United States; 70 years ago bombing Hiroshima showed people the terror of nuclear warfare. Today, conservatives want to keep millions of people in the U.S. from voting and engage a country in war that could end up with a nuclear weapon dropped on the United States. Those people should read what Padilla and Leahy have to say.

July 28, 2015

Oregon, Model for State Legislatures

After the Oregon legislature finished five months of work earlier this year, the conservative Oregonian published an editorial titled “2015 Legislative Session Will be Remembered More for Failures.” The writer lamented what was not accomplished–the lack of raising the gas tax, inability to increase the minimum wage, and allowing “rural communities exceptions to land-use policies in certain circumstances.”

The sometimes more liberal Register-Guard followed with the same moaning a few weeks later, repeating the failure of a plan to pay for repair of the state’s infrastructure. Both papers are correct in the frustration of not advancing this one issue although the fault came from Republicans, upset because a low-carbon fuels program due to sunset this year was extended to reduce carbon content of fuels by ten percent in the next ten years.

The gas tax is important, but both editorials ignored the fact that the 2015 Oregon legislature passed, and Gov. Kate Brown signed, 689 progressive laws in five months while the U.S. Congress managed only 40 percent that number in all of 2014. This happened at the same time that many other states passed a majority of regressive laws. These states should use Oregon as a model for ways to benefit women and children.

Highlights:

Schools: Without raising taxes, the legislature increased the K-12 budget by 25 percent since 2011 and provided funding for all-day kindergarten for all Oregon children. State community colleges got a 20-percent increase, and universities did better at 30-percent increase. Knowing that the suspension and expulsion can lead to prison, new laws limit school suspension in grades 5 and lower and stops expulsion being used for truancy. Hunger keeps students from learning so all students eligible for reduced-price lunches will now receive their meals free, and students may count time for getting their free breakfasts as instructional time. Students can attend community colleges free if they meet certain criteria, and students brought into the state who pay in-state tuition are eligible for grants.

Youth: The Oregon Health Authority is required to establish and maintain a list of chemicals of concern for children’s health used in children’s products.

Gun Sense: While other states make their laws more lax, Oregon passed laws to keep the possession of guns from domestic violence offenders and people subject to domestic abuse restraining orders. Federal background checks are required for all private gun sales except between family members.

Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence/Stalking/Other Sex Crimes: A number of laws should make life safer for victims of these crimes. Release orders for defendants charged with sex crimes or domestic violence must prohibit attempted contact with victim and third-party contact with victim while defendant is in custody. Personal support workers and home care workers are added to the list of mandatory reporters of abuse of children, elderly persons and other vulnerable persons, and short term, emergency protection orders for victims are available on a 24 hour, 7-day a week basis.

Stalking victims no longer have to pay fees to get a protective restraining order. Rape charges can be made for 12 years after the alleged crime. The posting of naked photos of lovers or partners on the Internet without their permission with the intent to humiliate or ruin reputations is prohibited. Upskirting—intentionally photographing a person’s “intimate areas”–is prohibited in all cases as is setting up hidden cameras in places where privacy is presumed—a crime now a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Victims are now free to access support and advocacy without fear of disclosure. Conversations between sexual-assault survivors and specially trained advocates are private. Patients can redirect their explanation of benefit documents away from the policyholder to keep medical information private from others such as parents and abusive or estranged spouses. Oregon universities, colleges and community colleges must give sexual-assault victims written information on their rights, legal options, campus services, confidentiality policies, school disciplinary procedures and off-campus resources.

Low-Income Relief: Tax credits for low-income families have been expanded for another six years. Seniors and other Oregonians surviving on Social Security Housing and other income exempt from collections will not be subject to collection of unpaid state income taxes. In another law that helps low-income people, unclaimed damage awards from class-action lawsuits will be directed to the Oregon State Bar’s legal-aid fund. Community Services Department may use moneys in Housing Development and Guarantee Account for housing for persons with low or very low income, and a new law provides $40 million to build hundreds of affordable housing units for low-income people and $25 million to build housing focused on people with mental illness.

LGBTQ Issues: Oregon became the third state to ban mental health therapy to change sexual orientation or gender identity for anyone younger than 18 and the first state to provide help to veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation. A coordinator will help LGBT veterans change their discharge status and access benefits since the repeal of illegal status because of sexual orientation as well as providing outreach and assistance to spouses and dependents of these veterans. The Oregon no longer uses the word “husband and wife.” All these references have been changed to “spouses in a legal marriage” in the state code.

Employment: A significant win in Oregon is paid sick leave for all state and private employers with ten or more employees. Each person will receive one hour per 30 hours of work up to 56 hours of annual paid sick leave. Employers cannot punish employees who ask or give information about wage information. In another important law called “Ban the Box,” employers are forbidden to ask about criminal history on a job application. Workplace rights for domestic workers have been extended to overtime pay, rest periods, and paid personal time off. Employees on family leave must receive the continuation of group health insurance coverage.

Health & Safety Issues: All people with ongoing medical prescriptions can get a 90-day supply, and insurers must pay for a 12-month supply of contraceptives to qualifying women. Hospitals who rely on certified nurse midwives will have to give them admitting privileges. Homes and schools have a 60-foot, no-spray buffer from herbicide spraying. In an attempt to fight the result of “bomb trains” carrying volatile fuel, the Oregon State Fire Marshal will be in charge of and receive funding for coordinating outreach, developing a spill response plan, and conducting exercises, training, and support in the area of train safety. (HB 3225)

Law Enforcement: The Department of Corrections will continue the Family Preservation Project for parent inmates at Coffee Creek for ongoing contact with children and extend the program at other prisons. This program has been highly successful in keeping parents from returning to prison after they are released. Some non-violent custodial parent offenders may have the alternative of intense supervised probation so that they can keep their children. Police cannot target suspects based on age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, sex, political affiliation, religion or other identifying factors–unless the officer is acting on precise information from a report.

Voting: Another first for the nation is the “Motor Voter” law that automatically registers Oregon (with an opt-out window) for voting with the data on driver’s license records.

gomberg 2Everyone in Oregon should be proud of living in a state where the legislature protects and serves the residents. At the end of the five-month session, my representative, David Gomberg, described the session as “one of the more challenging and productive in recent memory.” Challenging, I don’t know, but productive, certainly. In addition to the laws that were passed, the Oregon legislation rejected laws that would overturn Jackson County’s ban on GMOS and several laws that would make the gun laws more lax in the state, including a reciprocity agreement with other states that do not do careful background checks on gun sales.

Thank you, Oregon!

More information about laws in the 2015 Oregon Legislature here and here.

January 26, 2015

Universal Background Checks Necessary for Gun Safety

The local Ceasefire Oregon chapter organized a gun buy-back earlier this month. Despite naysayers from the gun non-legislation people, it was deemed a success with 138 weapons unwanted and possibly dangerous weapons turned into the police chief in my small coastal town. Fox network saw the video about the event and asked to do a story with the focus on people who said that they would gather outside the event and buy guns.

Publicity about the event brought the trollers who objected to background checks for private gun sales. The Central Coast Ceasefire Oregon Steering Committee responded to one of these complaints with stated concerns in italics:

Bob, thank you for your thoughtful response to the NOW BLOG.

Comment 1: How about starting to find common ground by not using insulting terms like “the gun lobby” to describe people who don’t support the agenda of even more restrictive laws? We aren’t a monolithic block, we aren’t a paid group of people, and we aren’t one organized group. Yet gun control advocates continue to paint us all with one wide brush.

Ceasefire Oregon uses the term “gun lobby” when we are addressing the organizations that actually lobby legislators about firearms-related issues. There is indeed a vast, well-financed, well-organized, and focused gun lobby. Nationally, the NRA, the NRA-ILA, and the Gun Owners of America lead it. In Oregon, the best known gun lobby is the Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF).

We try to use the term “gun owners” when referring to those who own firearms or enjoy firearms, but are not lobbyists. We don’t always use the term “gun owners” because we know that the vast majority of gun owners actually agree with the goals of Ceasefire Oregon.

Gun violence prevention advocates, such as the members of Ceasefire Oregon, are not a monolithic block, a paid group of people, or one organized group, either. Our unifying issue is “gun violence prevention” not gun control. We prefer the terms “gun safety” or “gun violence prevention” to describe our work.

Bob, have you an alternative to the name “gun lobby”?

Comment 2: How do you address the fact that most firearms used by criminals already evade existing [background check] laws regarding sales and very little prosecution is taking place regarding those laws? The administration’s own National Institute of Justice reports shows [sic] that most firearms are purchased on the “secondary” market; people eligible for legal purchases are illegally selling firearms to criminals.

Tragically, some gun sellers will sell guns without performing a background check first. Criminals use the private sale loophole to bypass a background check. A background check law will hold a gun seller criminally liable if the seller does not perform a background check and the purchaser was actually prohibited from buying a gun. Few people are willing to put their liberty at risk just to sell a gun to a criminal.

The state of Oregon recognized that prosecutions of those who violate Oregon’s limited background check law were inadequate.

“Effective Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at 8:00am, the Oregon State Police (OSP) will be revising the procedures related to violations of state law involving persons attempting to purchase or transfer a firearm that are denied, due to a state or federal disqualifier. This revision will include enforcement action involving persons attempting an unlawful firearms transfer through a licensed firearm dealer, during a voluntary private party check, or at a gun show.”

In addition, national law enforcement agencies and the families of those lost to gun violence are taking on the “Bad Apple Gun Dealers.” (Ninety percent of crime guns can be traced back to just 5% of gun dealers.) Here is further background information.

Please correct us if we are wrong, but by your “secondary market” reference, are you referring to straw purchases whereby one person buys weapons with the intent to sell the weapons to a prohibited person? If so, straw purchases are already illegal. This information is clearly laid out in ATF Form 4473 that is filled out when selling and purchasing a firearm.

The United States could greatly reduce straw purchases and gun trafficking by limiting gun purchases to one gun per month. California, Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia already limit gun purchases to one gun in a 30-day period.

Of greatest significance to us is the fact that universal backgrounds checks have proven to deter felons, mentally ill, those caught in the passion of anger, and those caught in the despair of suicide.

Comment 3: So how will requiring background checks for “all sales” address [straw purchases]? Do you really expect criminals to stop paying friends and family to buy firearms for them? Why should I and others like me who already own firearms have to go through yet another check? Or why should I have to go through a check when I buy a firearm from someone I know from work or the range?

We have no expectations of criminals. We do, however, think that family and friends will not want to face criminal charges for supplying weapons to criminals. In addition, we think very few family and friends want to arm criminals.

We believe the truth is that criminals buy guns and a responsible gun owner does not want a criminal to have a gun. Performing a background check as a seller also protects the seller from providing a criminal with a gun.

A universal background check is a minor inconvenience of being a good citizen and caring for the overall safety of the country. Requiring only one background check per lifetime (or for a limited period of time) ignores the fact that people change over time. Maybe you did not know that your friend from work or the range was a felon or had been adjudicated mentally ill at the time of sale or vice versa? Having consistent regulations is a safeguard. We all know there some gun owners who should not have possession of guns.

Two million prohibited people have been blocked from purchasing a gun since the Brady Law was enacted in 1993.

Bob, how would you propose to stop prohibited persons from buying guns?

Comment Four: Do you mean safe storage laws like Washington D.C. had? Do you mean if a firearm is stolen, the owner will be penalized and criminalized unless that owner can prove the firearm was stored in an ‘approved’ vault?

We are sure you agree that responsible gun owners have control over their weapons. Weapons should always be stored safely or kept under control on the gun owner’s person.

Smart gun technology can greatly reduce the risk of stolen guns being used in crimes as well as reduce the risk of suicide by gunshot.

With great rights come great responsibilities. If you choose to bring a gun into your home and community, you must be responsible for it.

Comment 5: The area of mental health is an area where we can make great strides, but we should proceed cautiously. So far most of the proposals call for anyone seeking help for just about any condition or situation to loose [sic] their right to keep and bear arms. That is unacceptable and will probably keep people from seeking help.

The United States needs to do a much better job of taking care of our mentally ill citizens and those who seek mental health help. Part of that help is to prevent those who would injure themselves or others from accessing firearms. However, we are unaware of any proposal of the breadth you describe.

Again, how would you propose to stop prohibited persons from buying guns?

A speaker from Ceasefire Oregon at tomorrow night’s local NOW meeting will most likely bring out more trolls, especially after recent articles about proposed state legislation for more complete background checks. Last year, neighboring Washington state became the 17th state to extend background checks past the federal standard for only licensed gun dealers. Oregon now has a chance for the same opportunity after last fall’s election increased the number of Democrats in the state government. Senate Judiciary Chairman Floyd Prozanski plans to introduce a bill that requires background checks for criminal history and mental history before private gun sales. Excluded would be sales among family members, inheritances and antique guns.

Private gun sales accounted for about 40 percent of all purchases 20 years ago; this percentage has probably increased since then because of sales on the Internet. Law enforcement officials have said that a record of ownership for sales would help them solve crimes. States with universal background checks have lower rates of police killed with handguns, fewer women shot by their intimate partners, and lower rates of suicides with firearms.

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