Nel's New Day

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.

October 21, 2013

Good News after the Shutdown

Recent news seems to be better than usual. We’re probably in a honeymoon period after the government re-opened and a few of the GOP members of Congress seem mildly chastened, but I’ll just enjoy what we have today.

Gov. Chris Christie has decided to stop fighting marriage equality in New Jersey. A judge ruled that same-sex couples could marry in that state this month—beginning yesterday, in fact—but Christie appealed the decision, asking for a stay of ceremonies until after the appeal. The judge turned him down, and the governor’s office submitted a formal withdrawal of the appeal to the state Supreme Court this morning. New Jersey is the 14th state to legalize marriage equality.

In my state of Oregon, the attorney general has ruled that the all government agencies in the state must recognize all legal out-of-state marriages, whether performed in other states or other countries. A campaign is still collecting signatures to put marriage equality on the ballot in 2014 by removing the ban from the state constitution. Over 100,000 signatures of the necessary 116,284 have already been gathered. Meanwhile two couples are suing the state to legalize marriage equality. Suits are popping up in several other states that discriminate against gay and lesbian marriage.

Opinion about the GOP has not faired well with the aftermath of the government shutdown. A new survey from Pew Research shows that unfavorable views of the Tea Party have doubled in the past three years from 25 percent in 2010, when the extremists took over the House of Representatives, to 49 percent last week. Only 30 percent of the people have a favorable view of the group that shut down the government for 16 days.

Tea Party

A majority of Americans also think that the GOP control of the House is bad for the country, and even more want House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) replaced. The 54 percent who oppose the GOP rule is up over 25 percent from the 43 percent in December 2012, the last fiscal standoff. Another 63 percent want Boehner replaced.

An NBC/WSJ shows that 24 percent of people approve of the GOP, a record low. Gallup, usually more positive than other surveys, found only 28 percent approval of the GOP. Congress has a 12 percent approval rating with 86 percent of the respondents disapproving, according to the CNN/ORC International poll. President Obama’s ratings haven’t changed since last June, and 44 percent are more confident that he can handle problems facing the U.S., compared to the 31 percent who think that the GOP can. Another 21 percent expressed no confidence in both that the president and the GOP.

For a month the Internet has been reporting the possibility of Democrats taking back the House. I have serious doubts because of the heavy gerrymandering done in the majority of the GOP-controlled states, but this idea keeps popping up. A new survey of 25 GOP-held districts shows dwindling favorability for Republican members of the House in the wake of the recent government shutdown, indicating excellent chances for a Democratic candidate.

In ten of these districts, the incumbent Republican is trailing a generic Democrat. Adding this survey to previous ones, generic candidates lead in 27 of 61 GOP-held districts. When voters were informed their Republican candidate supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped, and one race became a tie. The Dems would have to add 18 seats to the existing 200 in order to achieve control of the House. Unfortunately, voters have very bad memories, but bad behavior in January and February with the possibility of another shutdown might renew a negative impression of the GOP legislators.

Negative press may be the reason that Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR), who came in with fellow Tea Partiers less than three years ago, has announced that he will not seek re-election. As usual, he used the family responsibilities. Griffin is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and a nonpartisan report rates his district as “safe Republican.” Griffin was Karl Rove’s protege of Karl Rove and appointed as an interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock in 2006 after a scandal in which several U.S. attorneys were fired by the administration. He was never confirmed by the Senate and later resigned the position.

Another interesting race is for Kentucky senator. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is being attacked by the Tea Party on one side and Democratic candidate Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes on the other. She has run a tough campaign thus far with her infamous description of Congress: “The GOP has come to stand for gridlock, obstruction and partisanship. If doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it.”

McConnell tried to pick up some points during the government shutdown by negotiating with Harry Reid and then announcing that this can never happen again. The final continuing appropriations resolution also provided his state with a $3 billion earmark. Yet Grimes’ one-point lead doubled during the shutdown to 45-43 as 60 percent of the people in the state opposed the government closures. The Affordable Care Act, which McConnell vehemently opposes, has been very successful in Kentucky.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is still looking good in the Tea Party despite his determination to eliminate the Affordable Care Act at all costs. Time, a publication popular with conservatives, announced that he “potentially violated ethics rules by failing to publicly disclose his financial relationship with a Caribbean-based holding company during the 2012 campaign.” When he was caught in 2013, he reported the financial relationship by amending his mandatory financial disclosure documents but is now being forced to submit a second amended disclosure after an inquiry by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

When good news comes out of the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s usually because they have refused to hear a case. Last week justices said they wouldn’t review a decision that upheld the Maryland gun law requiring residents to demonstrate a “good and substantial reason” to get a permit to carry a handgun outside their own home or business. The state is one of six “may issue” states mandating this reason. Maryland law does not recognize a vague threat or general fear as an adequate reason for obtaining a permit. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law.

Maryland residents can carry a gun at their home or business or while hunting with no permit. The new Maryland law that went into effect at the beginning of October will most likely be the subject of court cases. One of the nation’s tightest gun laws, it bans 45 types of assault weapons, though people who owned the weapons before the new law was passed are allowed to keep them. People must also submit fingerprints to get a license to buy a handgun. That law is also being challenged in court.

Another court case that SCOTUS turned down comes from Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a candidate for governor, and his obsession with outlawing sodomy and oral sex. Ignoring the fact that SCOTUS struck down anti-sodomy laws ten years ago, Virginia kept the law on the books, and Cuccinelli wanted to use it to prosecute cases involving minors. Last July, Cuccinelli unveiled a website for the law and said that he planned to put it back on the books. He also blocked the Virginia legislature from changing the law to conform to the SCOTUS ruling.

The law, however, clearly includes all people, including adults, who engage in oral or anal sex, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed it unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign isn’t very successful either, partly because of his close relationship to Ted Cruz. Last week’s poll shows the GOP candidate down seven points to Terry McAuliffe. A recent ad gives evidence of Cuccinelli’s role in shutting down the government. Virginia was the state most hurt by the federal shutdown. Another of Cuccinelli’s problems is the restrictive laws regarding women’s reproductive rights in the state that has frequently brought out protesters.

As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.” But for today, this news is good.

September 14, 2013

Oregon’s Own Wacko, Art Robinson

Most states have memorable politicians who “entertain” both the media and its readers/listeners. New York’s Anthony Weiner comes to mind as does Iowa’s Steve King, famous for comparing the thighs of undocumented people to cantaloupes as he accuses them of smuggling marijuana.

In another embarrassing event for people in the United States, King was joined last week by Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minnesota’s embarrassment) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas’ problem) in an impromptu trip to Egypt. In a horrifyingly condescending manner, they praised the military and accused the Muslim Brotherhood of bombing the World Trade Center 12 years ago. As icing on the cake, Gohmert compared Egyptian General Abdel Fatah el-Sissi to President George Washington. The trio looked as if they were doing a Saturday Night Live skit while they ignored the U.S. position that the U.S. suspend aid to Egypt after the military’s ousting of the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi for president. Watch the video!

After state Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered the Texas chamber for 11 hours to stop its draconian anti-abortion bill, her fame went viral across the nation, so much so that there were calls for the Democrat to run for governor. Texas did pass the same law in a second session, and Dave Carney, aide to gubernatorial candidate and AG Gregg Abbott, dismissed Davis as “too stupid to be governor.”

Last week, however, Davis won her case against Texas’ gerrymandering district maps to disenfranchise minority voters. In addition, the court ruled that the state must pay her court costs. Davis is now even more famous and looks even smarter. In contrast, Texas’ current governor, Rick Perry, couldn’t remember which three federal agencies he would get rid of when he was debating other GOP presidential candidates last year. And Sen. Ted Cruz wants the federal Senate to be composed of 100 racist members just like former Sen. Jesse Holmes.

Arizona, of course, has had Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for a long time. After decades of racially profiling Latinos, he may end up with a court-appointed monitor to check on his activities. In May, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office singled out Latinos for unreasonably prolonged detentions. In the case, Arpaio’s office also objected to the requirement that deputies have a reason to pull over a vehicle and approach the driver. Recently Arpaio threatened to put “30 rounds into” self-proclaimed vigilantes searching for drug smugglers on the desert after one of them pointed a rifle at a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy. Just another one of those responsible people with a gun.

Another well-known figure in Arizona is Sen. John McCain who has never seen a country in the Middle East that he didn’t want to destroy—except Israel. After spending years as a POW in Vietnam, he should be more aware of the negative aspects of starting wars.

Virginia has a governor and a gubernatorial candidate who both take illegal donations from constituents and then claim that they cannot afford to pay them back. The list could go on and on.

As an Oregonian, I’m proud that our state finally has its resident wacko. Made infamous in the national media thanks to his appearance on a 2010 Rachel Maddow Show, Art Robinson ran against Democrat incumbent Rep. Peter DeFazio that year and two years later. Maddow claimed that he’s the only person on her show who made her bang her head on the desk. Since he complained that Oregon State University discriminated against three of his six children, there hasn’t been much publicity about Robinson—until the GOP elected him the chair of the state Republican party.

Robinson’s latest publicity came from a request for donations—for urine. His mailing to every household in Josephine County stated that they need only return the enclosed coupon to receive a sample container and box for the urine that should be mailed back to Robinson. He plans to do research on detecting diseases before any symptoms appear. To be honest, some people in the field such as David Wishart, a professor in the departments of Computer Science and Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, think his idea might have merit.

Robinson’s other ideas, however, totally lack credibility:

  • Nuclear Waste: Because Robinson believes in “radiation hormesis,” beneficial properties of radiation, he says that it should be diluted and “sprinkle[d] over the ocean,” added to the drinking water, and stored in building foundations.
  • Public Education: Robinson called for the abolition of public education, describing it as “the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States.”
  • Homeschooling: Robinson’s personal curriculum asks students to read “all 99” G.A. Henty books, which are notable for their “undisguised racism.” In one book, the main character states that the “intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old.” Robinson also wants parents to teach children from books “written in the 1950’s and earlier” to avoid the “overt racism” of “multiculturalism,” supporting his stance with anecdote that starts with him being frightened into “survival” mode by a “tough-looking character whose dark skin perfectly matched his leather jacket”–who turned out to be a professor.
  • Climate Change: Robinson supports the Global Warming Petition Project that claims it has signatures from 31,487 American scientists opposing the position that humans are the root cause of global warming. He defines “scientist” as anyone who claims to have a bachelor’s degree in fields such computer science, statistics, and metallurgy. Robinson is a chemist with no background in climate change and acknowledges that fake names such as the Spice Girl’s Geri Halliwell are the list.
  • Carbon and Climate: Robinson told the conspiracy website WND.com in 2002 that “[t]here is absolutely not a shred of evidence that humans are causing any change in the climate by generating CO2.”
  • AIDS: Robinson questioned whether HIV is the cause of AIDS and alleged that the epidemic was exaggerated to create a “crisis.”
  • Financial Reform: Financial reform is nothing more than an excuse for the government to grow itself and greatly increase its power.
  • Social Security: Social security is a Ponzi scheme.
  • Evolution: Robinson signed an anti-Darwinism statement “skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life,” contrary to peer-reviewed studies repeatedly supporting evolution.
  • Diversity: Robinson claimed that his alma mater, Cal Tech, had a vast majority of white males because “its applicants are weighted toward those who seek severe, difficult, total-immersion training in science—an experience few women and blacks desire.”
  • Abortion: Robinson believes in banning all abortions even in cases of rape.

Robinson’s ideas are extreme and destructive. Yet they are representative of many other GOP leaders in the country. These are the people who prevent the United States from achieving the exceptionalism that liberals know that the nation can be.

August 16, 2012

U.S. Should Follow Oregon’s Lead

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:44 AM
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Although I wasn’t born in Oregon, I am a proud Oregonian because of the progressive ideas in this blue state. Much of the credit for many benefits of living in Oregon come from Oswald West, governor of the state a century ago.

West was best known for making all the beaches part of the highway system—as indeed they were used during that time—which meant that a century later no one can buy beaches and limit people going on them as many other states do. Thus Oregon has 362 miles of beach with “free and uninterrupted” public access from the Columbia River to the California line.  This law, strengthened under Gov. Tom McCall in the late 1960s by designating the beach as extending up to the vegetation line for public use, contrasts sharply with other states that border an ocean: 93 percent of Maine’s 4,000-mile shoreline is privately owned; 75 percent of Massachusetts’ coastline is in private hands; and 77 percent of Florida’s coastline and 48 percent of California’s beaches are not public.

But West accomplished far more things that have held the people in the state in good stead. His legacy lives on in a scenic highway along the Columbia River Gorge, a predecessor to part of the nation’s interstate system. Through his efforts, the Coast Highway along the western perimeter of Oregon (Highway 101) and the Pacific Highway from Portland through the Willamette Valley (now paralleling Interstate 5) began their development. Much of the Oregon Park System is thanks to Gov. Oswald West.

His support for universal suffrage led to Oregon’s approval of universal suffrage; women in Oregon could vote in 1912, eight years before the 19th U.S. constitutional amendment made this law nationwide. As governor, he supported direct participation in government through the initiative and referendum. When insurance companies opposed a worker’s compensation bill and tried to kill it by referring it to the ballot, people voted by a ratio of 3-to-1 for the Oregon’s Worker’s Compensation Act.

West also helped pass the first minimum wage law in the country. During his time, the legislature put banks, loan sharks, stock brokers, and most public service corporations under tighter state regulation. One of these measures protected people from purchasing fraudulent securities. Vigorously opposing opposing capital punishment, West led Oregon voters to abolish what he called “the old barbarous system” for five years until they restored if in 1920.

During his time governor, West also influenced the creation of the Fish and Game commission, Highway Commission, and Industrial Accident Commission. During the third year of his governing, he also helped create the State Board of Control in 1913 that oversees the management of state institutions and the construction of state buildings.

In his memoirs published in The Oregonian in 1937, West wrote, “Early in life I rebelled against the established order of things, believing it to be responsible for most of the poverty and distress abroad in the land.”

Watching the conservatives try to privatize, outsource, or offshore everything that government and people have accomplished in over two centuries makes me even more grateful for what Gov. Oswald West accomplished in just four years. Rush Limbaugh thinks that women shouldn’t vote, Republican presidential candidates have promised to eliminate federal agencies including those that support education and environmental concerns, and conservatives in the House have set out to overturn the 17th constitutional amendment mandating that people have the ability to elect the senators that represent them in Congress. Conservatives don’t want minimum wage, and they reject any regulations that try to keep selfish, greedy, fraudulent financiers on a more honest basis. Texas, and the conservatives that cheer for the state’s actions, thinks that executing lots of people, including one man with a 61 IQ, is virtuous.

West v. conservatives shows the ideological difference in this year’s elections: “We’re all in this together” as opposed to “I’ve got mine.” In fact, the I’ve-Got-Miners want not only what they already have but also the little that struggling people have. The United States wasn’t developed on the basis of ”I’ve got mine.” It shouldn’t switch to that ideology now.

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