Nel's New Day

October 18, 2014

Supreme Court Decision on Texas Voting Rewards GOP Candidates

About 600,000 Texans won’t be voting in Texas on November 4, thanks to today’s Supreme Court ruling. At least five nine justices voted to permit the voter photo ID law to be in effect on that day. A federal judge had struck down the law last week, but the 5th Circuit Court put the lower ruling on hold, leaving the law in effect. After an appeal, the highest court ruled, without comment and indication of how justices voted, to agree with the circuit court. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place allowing people to vote.

Ginsburg wrote:

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

In her 143-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law an “unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” She found the law a deliberate discrimination against the state’s minority voters and described the requirement an equivalent to a poll tax. Ginsburg said that a full trial in district court found that the law was “enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited discriminatory result.”

Ramos also wrote:

“Based on the testimony and numerous statistical analyses provided at trial, this Court finds that approximately 608,470 registered voters in Texas, representing approximately 4.5% of all registered voters, lack qualified SB 14 ID and of these, 534,512 voters do not qualify for a disability exemption.”

The rationale from the majority of the Supreme Court for leaving the law is that it would inconvenience those running the election because it is so close to Election Day. According to the current majority of the Supreme Court, it’s better to stop a minor inconvenience than allow over one-half million people to vote.

Regarding the majority opinion, Ginsburg wrote:

“There is little risk that the District Court’s injunction will in fact disrupt Texas’ electoral process. Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for ten years [from 2003 to 2013] and in five federal general elections.”

Ginsburg echoed Ramos’ findings:

“The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court’s findings and final judgment. Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.”

She added that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

Texas officials tried to justify their actions by claiming that all eligible voters are able to get a photo ID. Ginsburg, however, pointed out that any cost of getting the mandated ID, even $2, is an unconstitutional barrier to voting. She wrote in her dissent:

“For some voters, the imposition is not small. A voter whose birth certificate lists her maiden name or misstates her date of birth may be charged $37 for the amended certificate she needs to obtain a qualifying ID. Texas voters born in other States may be required to pay substantially more than that.”

Over two-thirds of eligible voters may have to travel three hours or more round-trip to the nearest government office where they can get photo IDs and need a certified birth certificate costing $22, according to Ginsburg. Although the state offers one for $2 or $3 that is used only for election purposes, it has not publicized this option on election or birth certificate websites.

Ginsburg pointedly added:

“Racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

Attorney General for Texas, Greg Abbott, has vigorously fought for the photo ID law that keeps minorities, largely assumed to be Democrats from voting in this year’s election. Abbott is also the GOP candidate for governor.

This was the first time in over 30 years that the Court has allowed enforcement of a law restricting voters’ rights after a federal court ruled it to be unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminated against minorities.

A new study by two University of Delaware professors and a Pennsylvania high school student found that white people are more likely to support photo IDs laws after being shown a picture of a black voter than when they see a picture of a white voter. Black and Hispanic respondents were about equal in their support or opposition to a photo ID law no matter what person was in the picture. This research matches studies showing that whites are more likely to support harsh criminal justice policies if they see pictures of or hear statistics about black prisoners. In 2012, the Brennan Center for Justice found that blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have photo IDs than a cross-section of people in the United States.

None of the courts ruling on photo ID this month has addressed the issue on a constitutional basis. That will happen after this year’s federal election. The question is whether courts will permit the laws if there is no basis for them. With cases of voter fraud being one in every 14.6 million people in the U.S., there is no reason for such draconian laws. The question is whether legislatures can pass laws to cover problems that don’t exist. If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?” asked Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the dissent in the 5-5 decision for the 7th Circuit Court. After a three-judge panel held that the Wisconsin photo IDs for voting could go into effect, Posner asked for the entire court to hear the case. The court ruled 5-5, meaning that the panel’s decision, which the Supreme Court later overturned, stayed in effect.

Posner also pointed that the Supreme Court had once ruled in favor of photo ID for voters because they supposedly increased voters’ confidence in elections. Studies, including a Harvard Law Review study, refutes the idea that photo ID laws promote public confidence. It revealed that “perceptions of voter-impersonation fraud are unrelated to the strictness of a state’s voter ID.” When Commonwealth Judge Bernard L. McGinley struck down Pennsylvania’s photo ID law, he determined that “implementation of the voter ID law in a manner that disenfranchises qualified electors will undermine the integrity of elections.” In short, these oppressive laws erode confidence in the voting system.

Voting laws across the nation vary greatly. Ohio’s constitution prohibits “idiots” from voting. Casting your ballot in Alabama can’t take longer than five minutes. Texas will let you vote with a gun license but not a student ID. Some people in Arizona can vote for federal candidates but not state ones if they lack the appropriate ID. Thirty-three states have restrictions on voting with new ones in 22 of these. Almost half the country will have a much harder time in trying to carry out their constitutional right in 17 days than four years ago.

Four years ago, when the Tea Party took over the House, it was seen as a mandate from the people. This year, any conservative votes can be seen as the control of GOP legislators and GOP-leaning judges. And the control of the white people.

October 2, 2014

Don’t Love Your Precious Vote

One year ago today, I was getting ready to marry my partner of almost 45 years, possible after the Supreme Court decided that LGBT people should have marriage equality. On the same day, GOP members of the Congress had decided that the government should be shut down in an aborted effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The dictator of the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to hold a vote to keep the government running.

My partner and I married on October 6, and eleven days later the House GOP members decided that the shutdown was a failure. The public got angry because the parks were closed, and small businesses were hurt by the conservatives’ petty actions. Since that time, the ACA has proved to be far more successful than the GOP wanted, and the country found out it lost at least $24 billion because of the shutdown. Federal GOP legislators are still a little in shock over the response to their bullying tactics. They mutter about closing the government every time that the “kick the can” philosophy comes to a deadline, but the shrill cries are gone. Millions of people in the country without health insurance before January 1, 2015 now have the insurance benefits of the wealthier in the country.

In 33 days, most of the adults in the nation will be able to vote for a new Congress. Thanks to the lies on the Fox network, many of them will vote against their best interests. No one knows whether Republicans will achieve a majority in the Senate; the campaigns are like a see-saw as revelations and court cases change the status from one day to the next. If the GOP controls both chambers in the Congress, the president can still veto bills because the majority in both the House and the Senate will be too slight to override the veto. More Republicans on the state level, however, will vote for laws that keep people from voting.

People in two states are still trying to allow deserving people to cast their votes in the upcoming election. Although a decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently enforced restrictive voting laws in Wisconsin, civil rights’ groups have asked the Supreme Court to bar the new photo ID requirement. Today, they argued that ten percent of the Wisconsin voters already registered might be kept from making their voice heard through the ballot box. Justice Elena Kagan, in charge of emergency filings for the area that includes Wisconsin, can act on her own or share the issues with other justices.

Wisconsin passed the photo ID law over three years ago, but challenges to the law meant that it was used for only one state primary election. The state has done nothing to implement the law for the upcoming election, and about 300,000 registered voters lack one of the nine types of photo IDs mandated for voting. Many of these people lack the time and/or the money to get one of these IDs or a substitute ID card from the state in time for this year’s general election. Absentee voting has already started in the state, and those voters could be disenfranchised by the current ruling.

The 4th Circuit Court made the opposite decision from the 7th in ordering a lower court to block two new voting restrictions in North Carolina. To avoid disenfranchising minorities, the state must reinstate same-day voter registration and allow voters to cast ballots even if they go to the wrong precinct. The two-to-one ruling from the panel stated that “whether the number is thirty or thirty-thousand, surely some North Carolina minority voters will be disproportionately adversely affected in the upcoming election” and that it was important to act now, since “there could be no do-over and no redress” once the election was over.

The lower court “failed to adequately consider North Carolina’s history of voting discrimination,” according to the federal appeals court, and the new law eliminated “voting mechanisms successful in fostering minority participation.”

North Carolina passed the law soon after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that protected minority voters in areas with a history of discrimination. “The election laws in North Carolina prior to House Bill 589’s enactment encouraged participation by qualified voters,” the appeals court ruled yesterday. “But the challenged House Bill 589 provisions stripped them away. The public interest thus weighs heavily in Plaintiffs’ favor.”

In restricting voting for minorities and low-income people, GOP legislators have used the falsehood of voter fraud. A case of voter fraud that could effect the outcome of the election of Arkansas election attorney general has been revealed, and the GOP is not happy. After Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane discovered that the GOP candidate for this position, Leslie Rutledge, is registered to vote in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, he canceled her Arkansas voter registration. She can’t be a candidate if she isn’t eligible to vote in the state.

The former Gov. Mike Huckabee legal aide accused Crane of political motivation. She said, “Taking a person’s right to vote away from them, as Democrat Larry Crane has done, is reprehensible and a desperate attempt to help the campaign of a Democratic candidate who lacks the experience and good judgment to protect the citizens of our great state.”

Crane followed Amendment 51 of the Arkansas Constitution after he received a complaint that alleged Rutledge was ineligible to vote or hold state office because of her registration in multiple states. The investigation showed the complaint to be accurate, and Amendment 51 required Crane to cancel Rutledge’s registration. She had used a change of address form for a move from one Little Rock house to another instead of completing a new voter registration, required when she moved to Pulaski County from another county of state. Rutledge claimed that the fault was Crane’s because he should have searched all the counties in the country for duplicate information. The part from the constitution that Rutledge cited did not apply because she didn’t re-register after moving back to Arkansas.

Rutledge registered to vote in Washington in July 2008 but voted absentee in Arkansas in the 2008 general election. She then registered in Virginia in 2010 and later filed a change of address to change the Little Rock address that she used in a 2006 registration.  Washington was supposed to notify Arkansas about the registration in 2008, and Virginia should have notified Washington in 2010. Neither jurisdiction did. According to law, neither the Secretary of State’s office nor the Board of Elections can review Rutledge’s plight. Her only solution is to file a lawsuit. If she isn’t registered within 30 days of the election—three days from now—she can’t be elected.

Leslie_Rutledge_cropped

Arkansas has one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation. Over 1,000 absentee ballots were thrown out after the new law went into effect, and Rutledge was one of those who fiercely protected the restrictive law. Defending Rutledge is the Republican National Lawyers’ Association that has been instrumental in pushing mass voter purges across the country, including the defense to purge voters within 90 days of the election.

As in some of the cases of other possible voter fraud, photo ID at the polls wouldn’t stop this fraudulent action. Now, however, a Republican may understand how the millions of people feel about her party taking away their ability to vote. And she wants to be attorney general!

One hundred years ago women weren’t allowed to vote in the United States; 50 years ago black citizens were taxed and persecuted if they tried to vote. At this time, the GOP refuses to work to lower student loan interest rates to the same rate as that offered big banks and filibusters higher education bills for veterans. The GOP wants to ship jobs overseas and give even more money to big business. The black citizens in Ferguson (MO), ruled by white people, learned their lesson: voter registration in the town is up 25 percent.

Taking over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, China promised people in Hong Kong that they would have universal suffrage by 2017. The city’s Basic Law or “mini-constitution” allowed the city to continue its own legal and financial system, an independent judiciary, freedom of the press and the right to protest. When China told Hong Kong citizens that they could vote only for pre-approved candidates, hundreds of demonstrators protested, facing tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannon.

If people are willing to face tear gas for the right to vote in Hong Kong, people in the United States should be willing to vote. I’m lucky to live in a state with mandated vote-by-mail; other people have to stand in lines, sometimes in the heat or cold. Some people in the 21st century claim that they refuse to vote as a protest. Not to vote is actually a vote. No changes can be made without learning who are willing to give rights to all people in the United States, not just the top ten percent, and then vote for those people. Voting is precious. Let’s not lose the right.

October 23, 2012

Voter Fraud Comes from Those Who Control Elections

The debates are over, and the countdown to Election Day 2012 is the focus.

Never before has a presidential candidate owned voting machines in the United States. This year, the voting machine provider Hart Intercivic counting the votes in crucial swing counties of Ohio, Colorado, and elsewhere throughout the country has extensive corporate ties to the Mitt Romney. Ohio is well aware of the problems after a state-commissioned study in Ohio labeled labeled its voting system a “failure” when it comes to protecting the integrity of election.

This is not new news. Reports of Hart Intercivic’s ties to Romney first surfaced almost a month ago when a blog post by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis in The Free Press, an Ohio website reported that a key investor in Hart was HIG Capital, seven of whose directors were former employees of Bain & Co. HIG Capital announced its investment in Hart on July 6, 2011, just one month after Romney formally announced the launch of his presidential campaign.

Four of the HIG directors are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve. According to the Center for Responsive politics, HIG Capital contributed $338,000 to the Romney campaign this year. The Nation also reported that HIG Capital is tied to the Romney family via Solamere, a private equity firm that has invested in HIG and is run by Tagg Romney, the candidate’s son.

Suspicion of computer fraud in Ohio goes back to 2004. Although Democrat John Kerry had a 4.2 percent lead in the exit polls in Ohio, which would have given him the presidency, George W. Bush won the state by more than two points and, as a result, kept the White House.

Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, had contracted with SmarTech, a Tennessee-based tech firm indirectly tied to Karl Rove, to serve as the “failover” site for 2004 election results in Ohio. At approximately 11:14 p.m. on Election Night, SmarTech became part of the process, at the same time that the Ohio returns were characterized by anomalies involving the tabulation of punch cards, electronic voting machines of various types, spectacularly high turnouts in pro-Bush precincts, and turnouts in pro-Kerry precincts that were astoundingly low. Virtually all the irregularities favored Bush, and the vast majority of them remain unexplained.

A 2007 study, commissioned by Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to evaluate Hart and other voting systems in the 2004 elections in Ohio concluded that the Hart system performed “poorly” because unauthorized individuals could gain access to memory cards and “easily tamper” with core voting data and that Hart scored a “zero” on the twelve-step baseline comparison because it “failed to meet any of the twelve basic best practices” necessary to have a secure system.

In addition, the report asserted that the Hart system “lacks the technical protections necessary to guarantee a trustworthy election under operational conditions.” The concluding words show what will happen two weeks from today: “The vulnerabilities and features of the system work in concert to provide ‘numerous opportunities to manipulate election outcomes or cast doubt on legitimate election activities….virtually every ballot, vote, election result, and audit log is ‘forgeable or otherwise manipulatable by an attacker with even brief access to the voting systems.’”

The system has not been upgraded since that time.

Not satisfied with all the obstructions that Ohio has put in the way of voters with limited time for voting, the Republican-controlled Ottawa County sent an elections mailer to 2,300 voters in the northern Ohio county telling them that they are to vote on November 8 and giving them the wrong place for voting. [Please remember that Election Day is November 6!]

Another false mailing came out in Pennsylvania. PECO, the Philadelphia power company, sent a newsletter to 840,000 customers in its October billing with an announcement that voters must have a valid photo ID, something that the court overturned for the upcoming election. The company said that their website will have an update announcement and information will be corrected in the next mailing which goes out in four days. But the situation has been muddied with the court ruling that people can be asked if they have photo ID for the election. The logic is missing: people don’t have to have photo IDs, but they can be asked if they have them, an act that can be intimidating .

Who are some of the other people who may not be able to vote? One group of victims are transpeople whose faces may not match the gender on their identification. Many of these people are in transition with no official state recognition of their gender. More than 25,000 transgender people may lose their right to vote because of revised photo ID laws.

“New voter ID laws have created costly barriers to voting for many trans people. And much worse, the debate about voter ID laws have made even the idea of voting harder so many of us may feel discouraged from even trying to vote on election day,” said Executive Director Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling.

Native Americans will be disproportionately disenfranchised by the new voter ID laws. The National Congress of American Indians has released a report Monday that highlights the problems. Two of the states, Alaska and Florida, do not accept tribal ID cards for identification at the polls. Gun permits yes, government-issued tribal cards no.

Another serious issue for Native Americans is the requirement that voters provide home addresses. Some tribal communities have not street addresses. And as always “barriers of cost, logistics and distance to obtaining required IDs” can be a serious problems.

Six “states of concern” for Native voter access are Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. New ID laws also could disproportionately affect Native voters in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Washington. NCAI President Jefferson Keel said there are races that could hinge on the Native vote. Several of the affected states with a large Native American population are considered swing states in the decision of the next president.

Wait until you hear the screaming from the far right about the need for photo ID because 899 ballots have been cast by 112-year-old voters in North Carolina. But it’s not fraud at all; it’s a system that the Board of Elections uses. Until the 1980s, people in North Carolina didn’t have to give birthdates, just their ages. Because there was no birthdate, the Board of Elections used a default of Jan. 1, 1900, for the birthday.

Once again, there’s no need for voter photo IDs. There is a need, however, to have accurate voting records so that each person’s vote counts instead of being manipulated by the company that owns the computers.

July 24, 2012

GOP Vision for America

Yesterday I had breakfast with a friend who used to be a Republican, and I realized how lucky Democrats are these days. Not everyone in the party is  enamored with everything that Obama does, and the Democrat lawmakers are sometimes irritating. But the old-guard Republicans are lost.

During our discussion she said, “I’ve lost my party! I don’t tell anybody that I’m a Republican any more. I say that I’m an independent.” So I thought about the Republican vision for the United States: miserly, selfish, controlling, and violent. Conservatives are changing the United States from the “can do” to the “won’t do” beliefs.

Violence, of course, comes from the conservatives’ attitude toward gun control. It’s not just that they want everybody to have one or two guns in the house to protect themselves and use for recreational hunting. Instead, they want everyone to have as much fire power as they can afford to buy without considering that a restriction in this–or even licensing guns–might result in fewer deaths. The recently deposed head of the Arizona state senate, Russell Pearce, accuses the people in the Aurora (CO) theater of being cowards for not taking down the young man with four weapons and unlimited rounds for them at his disposal.

As for the current war in Afghanistan, the one that costs us $88.5 a year and where the country wants us to leave, the House managed to debate our situation there—for one hour. That’s all the nation’s destiny is worth to these people.

The conservatives’ craving for control has been clearly shown through the conservatives’ drive to eradicate unions, primarily for teachers, and contraception availability. Both these destroy salaries for women because teaching has been one place in the past where women can come closer to achieving economic equality. Without a decent salary, without the fair pay act which would require that women are paid the same as men for the same work, and without the chance to avoid pregnancy, women are losing the ability to stay out of poverty, where the conservatives think that they don’t deserve help. They want to control women.

Another control from the Republicans is the rash of laws mandating restrictive photo IDs for voting. Initially conservatives said the purpose was to prevent voter fraud, but by now they are admitting, as all sane people knew, that there was no fraud. Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai said,  “[…] Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Conservatives simply tried to remove as many progressive voters from participating in the election as possible.

Michigan is now a prime battleground against Republican control of municipalities and school districts by dictators appointed by the governor. The process started over a year ago with Public Act 4, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, that extended emergency manager laws. In Michigan, an emergency manager gives all orders in the town or school district and can break contracts and fire elected officials. The first city that Snyder took over, in the name of fiscal problems, was a tiny, largely black town because a wealthy developer wanted to build a golf course on a public park along the lake.

In protest to the Michigan law, a coalition called Stand Up for Democracy submitted 226,000 signatures for a referendum to overturn the law. They needed just under 162,000, and the Bureau of Elections found 203,238 valid signatures. Another organization challenged the petitions on the basis of wrong font size. The Republicans on the Board of Canvassers succeeded in declaring all petitions invalid. Last month the state Court of Appeals ruled that the signatures should be accepted, allowing a public vote in November. That decision has been appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court which will hear the case tomorrow. Part of the debate will be how the “point” and “type” should be measured, whether by size of the printer’s block or the actual printed character. This comes from the anti-regulation party.

In its supposed craving for austerity, conservative lawmakers have one response for any action that would help the country: we can’t afford it. And they use this excuse with no justification. Health care won’t bankrupt the country as demonstrated by all the other countries with universal health care, but we can be bankrupted with escalating costs and a sick workforce with lost work days and productivity. In fact, repealing the health care act will cost the country $109 billion that the taxpayers will save if we keep the law. The World Health Organization reports that the United States spends 16 percent of its GDP, the highest portion of any country, on health care but ranks 37th out of 191 countries in performance. By contrast the United Kingdom spends 6 percent of its GDP but rates 18th in performance, almost 20 places higher than the U.S.

Social Security isn’t bankrupting the country; it just needs some tweaking the way that President Reagan did 30 years ago. And green energy isn’t too expensive; it hasn’t bankrupted Denmark. Start-up costs for anything are more expensive as the country found out with technology such as television and computers. This area combines austerity with selfishness because those huge corporations that present everyone with high utility bills, charge high gas prices, and give everyone dirty air and water don’t want to lose their customers. Republicans keep talking about all the money that the government lost in solar companies going bankrupt. Facts show companies lost less than 4 percent of the total program funding for alternative energy. Because Chinese companies got massive government subsidies, they were able to flood the U.S. market with solar equipment. Yet this is the time to continue the program because the drop in prices because of Chinese solar panels greatly reduces installation costs.

In its austerity, conservatives balk at providing sufficient education for the nation’s young people. In 2003 the US ranked 15th of 29 in reading literacy, 21st of 30 in scientific literacy, 25th of 30 in mathematics, 24th of 29 in problem solving. Conservatives claim that the United States has bad teachers as conservative lawmakers continue to starve the schools and increase the number of students in classes. The United States conservatives also want to charge high interest rates on student loans for higher education while Europe and Russia have tuition-free colleges and universities free to reduce the shortage of workers in specific fields.

In their selfishness, conservatives frequently avoid addressing a need. The farm bill expires on September 30, but House Republican leaders don’t plan to do anything about it. The bill would save $35 billion during the next 10 years, but Republicans don’t want to touch it until after the November election—an attitude that they seem to have for any legislative activity. Nothing like this has happened for at least a half century. Doing this will put the farmers suffering from the worst drought since the middle of the last century with Medicare doctors whose pay will run out, fired workers who worry about jobless benefits, and possibly millions of families whose tax breaks may expire. The Senate has already approved its farm bill so that the House needs to stop whining about the Senate not taking any action.

If the conservatives want to save the country, they need to take a hard look at the defense budget. The United States not only spends more money than any other country but also spends more than the next 14 nations combined. This nation’s military budget accounts for 41% of the total military spending in the entire world. This is the conservatives’ “dream for America.” T

January 16, 2012

MLK Day 2012 Shows How Backward We’ve Become

Over half a century ago, a 26-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. led the boycott of segregated Montgomery (AL) buses; today we honor his memory by celebrating his birthday. Fifty-seven years later, what is our status on racism? Some believe that electing a black president of the United States means that we have achieved tolerance, that bigotry is gone. Looking closely at the culture of the nation today shows a far different picture.

Many of our nation’s “leaders” make racial remarks, sometimes unaware of how ignorant their statements are. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich  insulted black through the insinuation that these are the only poor people in the country and that they’re poor because they’re lazy.

Kansas Speaker of the House, Mike O’Neal, forwarded two emails, one calling the First Lady “Mrs. YoMama” and the other wishing Psalms 109:8 on Obama: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office,” a statement followed by “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” He said that forwarding the first one was an accident, “To those I have offended, I am sorry. That was not my intent.” [He certainly couldn’t admit that the content was wrong.] About the second email he said he didn’t really mean that he wanted President Obama to die—a statement commonly used by those who persist in sending out the email.

Earlier Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) declared Mrs. Obama a hypocrite for leading the Let’s Move campaign because she supposedly has a “large posterior.” Ironically, Sensenbrenner made his crude comment at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Hartford (WI) while talking with 72-year-old Ann Marsh-Meigs and other parishioners during the church’s Christmas bazaar.

The racial difference between the Democrat and Republican parties shows a clear polarity: Hispanics favor Obama over Romney by 68 to 23 percent while the Republican Party is 92 percent white. At the same time that seniors 65 years of age and older, overwhelmingly white, benefit from a Medicare plan far superior to that of President Obama’s health care plan, yet 50 percent of them oppose the Affordable Care Act.

These statistics may not indicate racism to deniers. We’ll continue. How about Republican methods of skewing the vote? Four years ago in South Carolina, the state holding a primary in five days, conservatives spread the false rumor that John McCain had illegitimately fathered a black child.

South Carolina is also one of several GOP-controlled states passing a law mandating voters to have government-issued photo identification. Many people without this photo ID remember the old poll taxes and literacy tests that led to the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, one of the most important victories of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Despite the number of politicians who wander around claiming that there was no intent to disenfranchise minority voters—indeed it wouldn’t at all, according to them—a study shows that more than 5 million voters would lose their citizens’ rights, the majority of them minorities as well as young and old voters. In South Carolina, 82,000 registered minority voters lack state-issued identification, according to the state’s recent statistics.

Arizona, according to state law, terminated its ethnic studies program in Tucson because of the claim that classes designed to teach about a particular ethnic group “promote resentment toward a race or class of people.” Faced with losing $14 million dollars in state funds, the city’s schools are even removing books on the basis of their ethnicity, literally taking them out of the hands of students. Even William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest has been taken from the classrooms. Teachers have been told to avoid any curriculum in which “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.”

Another banned book in Tucson is Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, which was described as unbiased and factual by an independent audit of Tucson’s ethnic studies program commissioned by Arizona Supt. of Public Instruction John Huppenthal. He declared the Tucson program in violation of state law, and the board chose not to contest his decision in court.

In Tucson’s school district, founded by a Mexican-American, more than 60 percent of the students come from Mexican-American backgrounds. The administration has removed every textbook dealing with Mexican-American history, including Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, featuring a biography of longtime Tucson educator Salomon Baldenegro.

An audit of students by David Scott, the school district’s director of accountability and research, found that students enrolled in the Mexican American Studies program did better than their peers. He wrote, “Juniors taking a Mexican American Studies course are more likely than their peers to pass the [state’s standardized] reading and writing … test if they had previously failed those tests in their sophomore year…. Seniors taking a Mexican American Studies course are more likely to persist to graduation than their peers.”

These narratives are only the tip of the iceberg, but they demonstrate the worsening state of affairs in this country. As the conservatives gain more power, they increase their bullying because they consider themselves the elite. To quote Joseph Welch who brought down Sen. Joe McCarthy during the 1950s witch hunt, “Have you no sense of decency?”

We’ll have to wait until at least one person in the nation is brave enough to ask the conservatives the same thing: “Have you no sense of decency?” WWKD: What would King do?

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