Nel's New Day

December 23, 2016

Trump’s Cabinet Goal to Destroy the Planet

World leaders gathered in Paris one year ago to adopt the most progressive climate change agreement ever parlayed. The consensus was a rejection of climate denial. There is universal agreement that global temperatures are increasing at an alarming rate, sea levels are rising to cause great damage to low-lying cities, and greenhouse gases. The result is melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost with declining spring snow cover.

In a jarring repudiation of the Paris Agreement, Donald Trump has collected a terrifying compilation of climate deniers, beginning with the man employed to work with countries around the world, Rex Tillerson who spent the last 40 years helping ExxonMobil rape the world in its obsession with removing fossil fuels.

scott-pruittOklahoma AG Scott Pruitt, nominated as head of the EPA, is 100 percent opposed to federal regulations concerning air and water pollution that were created from laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act passed in the 1970s. As Oklahoma’s top prosecutor, he has led or joined state lawsuits to block almost every major regulation from President Obama’s EPA, including a lawsuit in support of mercury pollution from coal plants. That and his other lawsuit to keep smog pollution crossing state lines both failed. He is currently suing to block EPA efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, proving a conflict of interest for his confirmation.

Pruitt falsely claims that fracking doesn’t contaminate water supplies or cause the vastly increased number of earthquakes in his state. The fossil fuel industry has given him almost $315,000 for his opposition to clean air and water. Pruitt would help DT return to an era before the 1970s, when the EPA was created by President Richard Nixon—a time when health alerts urging people to stay indoors and move as little as possible because of choking smog was common in major cities. In addition to his anti-environment protection stance, Pruitt created a “federalism unit” in his office to fight current policies on immigration, health care, and finance reform.

rick-perryRick Perry, back from being fired from Dancing with the Stars, has been nominated to head up the Department of Energy, the agency that he would have eliminated if he could just have remembered its name during his 2012 campaign for president. GOP Senate leaders leadership don’t even know the purpose of this department. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) praised the choice because Perry’s Texas has lots of oil, but the Department of Energy has nothing to do with overseeing oil, gas, and coal development. That’s the responsibility of the Department of the Interior. Sixty percent of the Energy Department’s responsibility is overseeing the country’s nuclear arsenals that DT plans to “expand.” The National Nuclear Security Administration has a proposed budget of $12.9 billion, and the last two energy secretaries were MIT-educated physicists. Perry took four chemistry courses and got two Cs, a D, and an F; he also scored a C in physics and a D in “Meat.”

The Energy secretary is also in charge of the department’s loan program which started the photovoltaic industry and was responsible for Tesla. This R&D is vital to keep the nation competitive in a technology race, especially with India far ahead of the U.S., but DT already promised to stop research on solar, wind, efficiency, batteries, clean cars, and climate science. Perry also is on the boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, two firms responsible for the pipeline that people at Standing Rock Reservation successfully fought—at least temporarily.

ryan-zinkeRep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), nominated for the Secretary of the Interior, would be responsible for oil if he were confirmed. He loves the idea of drilling in all the national parks, approves of coal leasing on federal land, opposes safeguards for temporary wetlands and intermittent streams, and voted for a bill to transfer millions of acres of national forest lands to states. Climate change is “not proven science,” according to Zinke.

Conservationists have said that Zinke believes “that government welfare handouts can save dying coal companies and crumbling oil and gas giants” and that his “brief political career has been substantially devoted to attacking endangered species and the Endangered Species Act.” During his 2014 campaign for Congress, he described Hillary Clinton as “the real enemy” and “the Antichrist.” Zinke’s nomination adds to the DT’s military contingent. A Navy Seal for 30 years, his congressional website logo refers to him “Commander,” adding to DT’s military contingent in the Cabinet.  At least he studied geology as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon—over 30 years ago.

DT’s advisors hope to privatize Native American reservations, the two percent of land in the U.S. that contains 20 percent of the nation’s oil and gas as well as huge coal reserves, all worth $1.5 trillion, and Zinke may be the man to follow through with these plans. The proposal fails to consider over a century of U.S. policy that preserves Indian tribes on federal reservations government as sovereign nations by tribal leaders.

Native Americans have reported on Zinke’s efforts to circumvent and eliminate the Endangered Species Act limitations. He also opposes attempts to crack down on the black market ivory trade and supports aerial gunning, baiting grizzly bears, and the use of steel-jawed leg traps. The NRA describes Zinke as an “avid” trophy hunter. He beat out Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) because DT, Jr., who sat in on the interviews, wanted a hunter like himself for the job. One headline described Trump’s two sons, Jr. and Eric, as “Awesome at Killing Elephants And Other Wildlife” during their African safaris.

Beyond Zinke’s determination to destroy public lands is his ultra-conservative political views. Donations to his campaign from white supremacists and Zinke’s endorsement for them in political races shows his ties to the neo-Confederate group that inspired Dylann Roof, the man who is guilty of killing nine worshippers in a Charleston (SC) church. He co-sponsored legislation to designate English as the official language in the U.S., and he discussed the bill in an interview with the anti-immigrant  ProEnglish organization, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He endorsed state legislative candidate Taylor Rose, who has close ties with the European right-wing extremist Youth for Western Civilization. Richard Spencer, head of the racist National Policy Institute, may run for Zinke’s vacated congressional seat—if he gets confirmed—and the state GOP party has yet to denounce Spencer.

Zinke’s state newspaper opposes the representative on a number of issues. He’s been accused of helping coal companies that donate to his campaign fleece taxpayers because of loophole to sell to subsidiaries at artificially depressed prices. He ran on a platform of clean energy and climate change in 2010 and then reversed his opinion, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. His fundraising materials suggested he participated in the killing of Osama bin Laden although he retired from the military three years before that even. The Department of Defense told him to stop using the SEAL insignia on his campaign materials. One of his constituents wrote that he could no longer support Zinke because he now sees him as “an unprincipled, self-glorifying, dangerously cynical phony.” Ryan Zinke will fit right in with Donald Trump.

nikki-haleySouth Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), nominated as ambassador to the United Nations, has kept a low profile with her lack of foreign policy experience. Yet she buried a report from her state Department of Natural Resources on the severe problems that climate change brings to her state. After a 2015 flood killed 16 people in South Carolina and caused billions of dollars of damage, she refused to make any connection between the disaster and climate change. The terrifying encroachment of five feet of the sea level onto the South Carolina coast in the next three decades will be replicated around the world.

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21:  King Felipe VI of Spain (not picture) receives Mr. Andrew N. Liveris, President of Dow Chemical Company at Zarzuela Palace on May 21, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

The Cabinet is not the only place DT is stuffing with anti-world representatives, Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical who brought the planet Napalm, Agent Orange, Chlorpyrifos, 2,4-D, and GMO crops, will head up the American Manufacturing Council, a private sector group that advises the U.S. secretary of commerce. Last September, Breitbart criticized the Clintons for being friends with Liveris. but made no comment about DT’s selection of Liveris for his team.

The only victory against DT’s determination to destroy the climate was the questionnaire that his transition team sent to the Department of Energy demanding names of people who worked on blocking greenhouse emissions. The DOE refused, and scientists are taking steps to preserve decades of climate data on independent servers so that the DT administration does not erase it.

The Wayback Machine, an internet archive of hundreds of billions of web pages no longer active, is copying its 20 years of material to Canada. During the Third Reich in Germany, the Nazis could burn books to destroy information. Computers make this obliteration much more difficult. Future generations will be able to trace the corruption and fraud of the DT administration.

June 12, 2015

Graham, Perry Enlarge GOP Presidential Field

Two GOP presidential candidates added themselves to the mix last week, increasing the field by 25 percent to ten. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) brings the number of senators, either current or former, to five—half the string. With little chance for success, he may be angling for the vice-presidential seat. Although he tried to be coy about his running, he did slip up a couple of weeks before the formal declaration when he said, In a slip over two weeks before his formal declaration, Graham said, “I’m running because I think the world is falling apart. I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy,” Graham said.

Graham claims that he has “more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race” and then added, “That includes you, Hillary.”The so-called expertise may not survive the light of day. He claimed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and now thinks that the U.S. president can secretly order the killing of U.S. citizens. Terrorist suspects don’t deserve rights as U.S. citizens because “the homeland is the battlefield.” He would also violate the First Amendment because “free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.” According to Graham, there is a connection between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the 2012 attack on the Benghazi diplomatic embassy.

Graham has said “don’t vote for me” if you don’t want to sent U.S. soldiers back to war in Iraq. He said, “The only way I know to defend this country is to send some of us back to Iraq and eventually to Syria, to dig these guys out of the ground, destroy the caliphate, kill as many of the as you can, hold territory, and help people over there help themselves.” Three of the four factions in the Syrian civil war don’t want U.S. intrusion, and that’s where Graham wants U.S. soldiers to go.

Not satisfied with stopping at attacks in Iraq, Graham would move the war to Iran because “there are no moderates in Iran.” According to Graham, “Everything that starts with ‘Al’ in the Middle East is bad news.” The “expert” doesn’t know that “al” is Arabic for “the.” Graham’s experience working in a poolroom as a teenager furthered his understanding of Iranians. “Everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room,” he said. “I met a lot of liars, and I know Iranians are liars.” So says the bigoted GOP voice on international affairs.

Graham is so intent to extend funding for the military that he “wouldn’t let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to.” The “fix” is to remove the sequester caps for the military while starving the rest of the country. While complaining about the excessive debt, he wants to add to it with more wars.

Graham’s longtime political adviser, consultant, and pollster was a neo-Confederate magazine editor from the early 1980s until the early 2000s. Richard Quinn was listed as the editor-in-chief of the Southern Partisan. As editor, Quinn wrote that Martin Luther King Jr.’s role in the Civil Rights movement was “to lead his people into a perpetual dependence on the welfare state, a terrible bondage of body and soul” and called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and a “bad egg.” Quinn also supported David Duke.  In his desire to lead a political party that admits it needs to demographically diversify, Graham declared, “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Graham brags that he has never sent an email. That might not be notable except for his position on a technology subcommittee where he votes on, and even introduces bills about the internet.

Since Caitlyn Jenner’s portrait appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, conservatives have struggled with reactions. On a CNN news show, Graham said, “If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be safe and have a prosperous economy — vote for me.” Then he continued by saying that he’s pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, but Jenner is welcome in his party. He wants her vote but won’t give her equal rights because Jenner is attracted to other women. As a senator, Graham opposed marriage equality, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would have prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He should understand the need for LGBT rights because of the ongoing rumors about his being gay.

In his preoccupation with fear, Graham said, “We have never seen more threats against our nation and its citizens than we do today.” That seems to include both world wars, Vietnam, and the Cold War. Two hundred years ago, the British literally set fire to the White House while Abigail Adams fled with George Washington’s portrait. The Civil War killed 620,000 people in the U.S.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry is also on the GOP presidential campaign trail. Even with the heavy black frames on his glasses, he is still searching for an intelligent way to express himself. He admitted that the wealthiest Texas got the largest earnings growth but said that income inequality isn’t a problem in Texas. “We don’t grapple with that here,” he said, ignoring the state being seventh-worst in the rich and poor gap in 2012. He added, “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.”

When MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked him if he was smart enough to be the president, he responded:

“Running for the presidency’s not an IQ test. It is a test of an individual’s resolve. It’s a test of an individual’s philosophy. It’s a test of an individual’s life experiences.”

Despite the devastating drought following by horrendous floods in his state, Perry sticks to his skepticism regarding climate change. He follows the rest of the GOP pack with the “I’m not a scientist” line and says that “calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country.” Perry has a track record of fighting the EPA, and Texas has passed a law banning the ability of any city or other municipality to ban fracking.

Other Perry beliefs:

  • Social Security And Medicare Are Unconstitutional. In spite of the constitutional right to “lay and collect taxes” in order to “pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” Perry thinks that the Founding Fathers had a different definition of “general welfare.”
  • All Other Federal Health Programs Are Also Unconstitutional.
  • Federal Education Programs Are Unconstitutional.
  • Nearly All Federal Laws Protecting Workers Are Unconstitutional.
  • Federal Financial Reform Is Unconstitutional.
  • Voters Should Not Be Able To Choose Their Own Senators. Gerrymandering has turned a majority of states over the GOP, so Republicans are in favor of state legislators’ appointing senators, instead of following the popular election created by the Seventeenth Amendment.
  • Taxing Investment Income Should Be Unconstitutional. Perry wants a wealthy heir to pay no taxes although his workers would not have the same advantage. A Supreme Court decision agreed with Perry in 1895 before the 16th Amendment gave Congress the right to collect taxes.

By refusing federal aid, Perry not only took health insurance from one-fourth of the Texas population but also refused $100 billion in federal funding for the over one million struggling families in the state. He took pride in the fact that he governed the state with the biggest number of uninsured people. Just the 24 lawsuits against the federal government between 2009 and 2012 cost Texas taxpayers more than $2 million. Perry’s actions have forced hospitals to suffer losses of over $5 billion each year. The expansion of the healthcare program would create over 300,000 jobs and add $3 billion to the Texas economy in ten years.

Perry told Glenn Beck that the country would have a real advantage with him as president:  conspiracy theorists wouldn’t think that President Rick Perry would invade Texas. He does have the unique qualification of being under indictment for abuse of power and coercion of a public servant while governor.

In some polls, Perry moves between three and five percent although a couple of them don’t mention him. Lindsay appears an almost none of them and even comes in fourth in South Carolina’s poll.

Next week’s announcement may be Jeb Bush. He’s finally embarrassed enough about being a non-candidate to say that he’s entering the fray on June 15. Another opportunity to get an impression of what the United States could be if one of these people gets elected in 2016.

August 28, 2014

Campaign Fever: Governors

August hit the doldrums for a few weeks, but political scandals have hit the media. With over 80 percent of the governors, states may be changing parties this coming year. The luckiest governor is Texas’s Rick Perry because he isn’t running for re-election. Perry has, however, been indicted for abuse of official capacity and for coercion of a public servant, both felonies. After DA Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, he threatened to defund the state Public Integrity Unit if she didn’t resign. She stayed, and he took away $7.5 million from the investigating.

Borowitz-Rick-Perry-Strikes-Back-690Although Perry has ridiculed the charges, there are two legal issues. First, this looks a lot like extortion: the funding would stay if she quit. The second is the lack of outrage for other drunk DAs, maybe because they were both Republicans. The Kaufman County DA’s conviction for drunk driving was his second offense, and the Swisher County DA’s conviction was accompanied by a scandal involving the prosecutor and a bad sting operation. Lehmberg, however, was investigating one of Perry’s friends for corruption.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, “Perry blasted the indictments and called for a return to an era of limited government that focuses on requiring gynecological procedures. ‘We are living in dark days indeed when the state of Texas is spending time and money probing its officials instead of its women,’ he said, to thunderous applause.”

Fortunately for Perry, his presidential hopes are a couple of years off. Yet his statements such as referencing Ukraine in complaints about “historic” breeches of the border “from countries with terrorist ties” will return to haunt him.

Wisconsin’s governor, however, is campaigning for another term, and he’s had a bad week. At least on the outside, Scott Walker seemed to think that the investigation into his allegedly fraudulent use of campaign resources was going away—until records went public last Friday. Apparently, he personally solicited millions of dollars in contributions for a conservative group during the 2011 and 2012 recalls. For example, Gogebic Taconite gave $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth and got legislative approval to streamline regulations for a massive iron ore mine in the northern part of the state. Wisconsin Club for Growth ran ads supporting the governor and helped disperse campaign funds to conservative allies. An aide gave Walker these talking points when he asked Sheldon Adelson for donations in Las Vegas:

“Stress that donations to [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits. Let [potential donors] know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”

A Walker campaign consultant referred to donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth as “investments.” The same email to a campaign adviser stated that “as the Governor discussed … he wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging.” In short, Walker illegally rerouted donations to, then coordinated with, Club for Growth. Walker’s sordid background is available here.

Even worse for Walker, he’s losing ground to his opponent, Mary Burke. He’s slightly ahead with registered voters but behind two points with likely voters.

Wisconsin GOP’s Gov. Scott Walker got elected four years ago partly on his promise to create 250,000 jobs for the state. His philosophy to take from the poor and give to the rich has raised a great deal of ire, especially since the state has seen only 100,000 new jobs during his term. In bragging about the state being #1 in Midwest personal income growth, he skipped the growth for the wealthy and decrease for the rest of the population.

In claiming that Wisconsin has also seen the lowest unemployment since 2008, he used the October figures. State current unemployment is 5.8 percent compared to 4.7 percent in 2008. Wisconsin rates 25th in the nation in unemployment and 37th in job creation, nothing to brag about.

Another GOP governor in trouble is Michigan’s Rick Snyder who took over many municipalities by assigning dictators called “Emergency Managers.” Snyder’s pension “reform” raised taxes for the poor, elderly, and middle class by 36 percent and reduced corporate income taxes by 81 percent, while the legislature refuses to repair crumbling roads. Now Snyder is trying to identify with his constituents—like the residents in Detroit who have had their water turned off and the others suffering from recent floods.

He told WJR radio host Frank Beckmann about a leak at his vacation home:

“I’ve been through a lot of things like that, Frank. We just recently had holes in our roof from storm damage to our lake house. We have a vacation place and we had a limb come down on the roof and had water running through the whole place; those experiences are not pleasant ones and they had to take some trees down.”

At least three people died because of the flooding: one woman suffered seizures while stranded in her car, a 100-year-old woman drowned in her basement, and a man died while trying to push his van out of flood waters.

Democratic candidate Mark Schauer has taken a slight lead in the polls.

Republicans may survive election efforts in Florida because of the gerrymandering that the court currently upholds, but the governor’s position is state-wide and Rick Scott has a lot going against him. Questions have been raised about Scott’s campaign and the GOP paying over $227,000 for a jet owned by his wife’s business. Another problems were whether Florida campaign finance laws have been violated through undisclosed expenditures and the transfer of money from a communication organization to a political committee.

An analysis of polls on Nate Silver’s website shows that Scott and his opponent, Charlie Crist, are both so unpopular that it is not predicting the winner. Crist, once a Republican governor, was far more popular before Scott poured money into negative campaigning instead of explaining why people should vote for him. Crist has come back with his own ads, reminding people of the biggest Medicare fraud while Scott was CEO of the hospital company. The company ended up paying $1.7 billion. The ad also points out Scott’s tax giveaways while taking money from seniors.

The lieutenant governor who helped Scott win four years ago because of her outreach to minorities and was forced out in 2013 and now has a new book. It’s not a pretty picture of the GOP candidate for governor. In “When You Get There,” Jennifer Carroll states that Scott got six percent of the black vote because of her actions that the campaign opposed. Without those votes, she wrote, “Scott would have lost the election.”

The good news today in Pennsylvania is the Gov. Tom Corbett has become the ninth GOP governor to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This act will give 500,000 low-income individuals subsidies to purchase private insurance and reduces the number of available benefit plans to be reduced from 14 to two, a “high-risk” option and “low-risk” options. Much as I would like to commend Corbett for his humanitarian impulse, I’m more likely to think that he was reacting to the latest poll numbers: he’s down 25 points to his Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf.

Looking good is Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), one of six governors who Gov. Chris Christie (NJ), responsible for GOP governors’ campaign fundraising, placed high priorities on; the others are the four above and Paul LePage in Maine. Projections say that LePage will lose, but he may be lucky again in another three-way race against Democrat Michael Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.

Meanwhile things are so economically bad in Koch-country Kansas, that the once popular Sam Brownback is eight points down. Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter, is up by four points over incumbent Nathan Deal in Georgia. A lot can happen in the next 68 days.

May 14, 2014

Texas Execution Postponed

Last night, Texas failed to kill someone. After several appeals, a judge finally stopped the execution just two hours before the scheduled execution at 6:00 pm. Robert James Campbell was convicted of a 1991 rape and murder when he was 18 years old. He has been in prison for 23 years. His execution was scheduled for exactly two weeks after Oklahoma injected drugs into Clayton Lockett that left him writhing in pain before he died of a heart attack.

One appeal concerned the unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment that Campbell might have suffered because Texas planned to use unknown drugs compounded at an unknown facility with no federal oversight. Judges didn’t find that a problem. Texas did lose on the next count, however, because Texas had hidden psychological evaluations showing that Campbell is intellectually disabled.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision will permit Campbell to appeal his execution because the state had failed to turn over his past intelligence tests. Texas has no law against executing mentally disabled people because Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill have it passed the legislature. Perry has executed people who committed crimes as juveniles (3), mentally disabled (10), and victims of inadequate counsel (5). Two of Perry’s executed men didn’t commit murders. He even executed a man who was most likely innocent.

A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, however, ruled that executing the mentally disabled violates the Constitution. One school test put Campbell’s IQ at 68, well below the average of 100. Officials said he scored 84 after a robbery conviction two years earlier but there were no details about the exam. In April, a psychologist reported his IQ at 69.

While in school, Campbell couldn’t make change, read a gas gauge, or tell time. Prosecutors claimed that he showed higher intelligence because he played sports, sang in a church choir, and mowed yards. His execution would have been the eighth this year in Texas. The next one is scheduled for August.

The Fifth Circuit Court has a reputation of supporting executions. Judge Edith Jones reinstated a death penalty for a man whose lawyer slept through his trial. Last year, she claimed that blacks and Hispanics are predisposed to crime and “prone” to violence. The execution, according to Jones, is a “positive service” because the executed have an opportunity to get right with God just before the state kills them. Her position is that appeals on the basis of mental retardation “abuse the system” because anyone who can plan a crime can’t be mentally retarded. 

So many people have been executed in Texas that the residents of Huntsville, where the killings take place, pay very little attention to the hundreds of people legally killed in their community. Instead of the three-drug “cocktail” used in Oklahoma, Texas uses a single drug, pentobarbital. Prison administrators from other states visit Texas to gain guidance for killing its prisoners. Occasionally, Texas executioners are outsourced to other states to perform their executions. They have a great deal of practice: 515 men and women have been killed in Texas since 1982 with lethal injections. Forty percent of the nation’s legal killings of prisoners occur in Texas. Since 1976, Texas has carried out more executions than the six other busiest killing states combined: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Texas officials think they are efficient even though a prisoner who was being executed last month woke up and said, “It does kind of burn.” David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented more than 100 death row inmates during their appeals, said, “I think Texas probably does [executions] as well as Iran.”

Last year Woodland Compounding Pharmacy demanded that Texas return drugs to them because the state had obtained them under false premises. The state had ordered the drugs in the name of “Huntsville Unit Hospital,” which hadn’t operated for over 30 years. According to a letter from Woodland’s owner Jason Lovo, however, it was obvious they knew the use for the drugs they were selling:

“I am the owner and pharmacist-in-charge of the Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, the pharmacy that has provided TDCJ with vials of compounded pentobarbital.

“Based on the phone calls that I had with Erica Minor of TDCJ regarding its request for these drugs, including statements that she made to me, it was my belief that this information would be kept on the “down low” and that it was unlikely that it would be discovered that my pharmacy provided these drugs. Based on Ms Minor’s requests, I took steps to ensure it would be private. However, the State of Texas misrepresented this fact because my name and the name of my pharmacy are posted all over the internet. Now that the information has been made public, I find myself in the middle of a firestorm that I was not advised of and did not bargain for. Had I known that the information would be made public, which the State implied it would not, I never would have agreed to provide the drugs to the TDCJ.”

Huntsville is a lovely town of about 40,000 people with seven state prisons in the vicinity. The Walls prison fortress is about a half mile from City Hall in the heart of town. Jim Willett, Walls warden from 1998 to 2001, said that the “tie-down team” that straps the prisoners on the execution table “can take that man back there and put those straps on perfectly and easily in 30 seconds.” He added, “They take pride in what they do. They’ve done it so often that it’s almost second nature to them.”

Willett’s job now is director of the Texas Prison Museum that had 31,208 visitors last year. Built to resemble a state prison, it has a replica guard tower in one corner. The electric chair for executing people until 1964 is displayed behind a protective glass barrier. The sign states: “Attention: Please do not enter past the rope or attempt to touch ‘Ol’ Sparky.’ An alarm will sound if you do try to enter.”

Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, thinks that Texas is much better at executing people than Oklahoma. The drug to be used came from a compounding pharmacy and is potent and “free of contaminants,” he wrote. There is no information about how the drug is tested.

Austin D. Sarat, an Amherst College professor who has studied the death penalty, rates Texas’s mishaps at 4 percent, higher than that of Oklahoma, when considering difficulty in finding a vein. In 1988, a tube attached to a needle inside Raymond Landry Sr.’s right arms shot drugs across the death chamber toward the witness room. The warden closed the curtain, and 14 minutes later when it was re-opened, Landry’s eyes were half-closed. Three minutes later he was pronounced dead.

In the late 1990s, when George W. Bush was governor of Texas, between 40 and 50 death sentences were handed down in Texas. The number has fallen to below 10 a year since 2010, perhaps because of the 140 high-profile exonerations in the state in recent years, including a dozen death row inmates. Questions also exist about the guilt of already executed prisoners.

People justify executions by saying that those people have killed—a type of vengeance. There’s the belief that if these evil people act outside the law that the government should do the same—kill people. Twenty-two countries executed people last year, including Yemen, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, China, Sudan—and the United States. As we criticize other countries in the world for being less “democratic” or “highly developed,” we need to consider the company we keep.

executions

Strapping down prisoners to kill them, injecting drugs, running a museum with an electric chair–it’s just business as usual to the people who have become desensitized to legally killing people.

 

May 8, 2014

Is Rick Perry Smarter Wearing Glasses?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is worried about me. I found that out when he talked on Sunday’s Meet the Press about his “family … the “90 million people that are out of work.” What he doesn’t know, however, is that in April the United States had 9.8 million unemployed people—a horrifying statistic but 80.2 fewer people than Perry cited.

Rick Perry

The Bureau of Labor Services did show 92.6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 15 who were “not in the labor force.” I’m one of those because I retired several years ago. And I don’t plan to look for a job. Perry doesn’t need to worry about me.

I’m in good company: 36 million other people are 65 or older. Another 11 million teenagers, age 16 to 19, are unemployed—not looking for jobs. In the 20- to 24-year-old catgory, 6.8 million people, many of them still in college, aren’t looking for jobs. The rest are stay-at-home parents and/or spouses, early retirees, people who may have inherited money, and anyone else who doesn’t need or want to work.

To be officially “unemployed,” someone without a job had to make an effort to get one within the four weeks before the BLS survey. Right now the unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, evenly divided among those who haven’t looked for employment in the past year and those who have searched for work in the past year but not in the past four weeks.

Of those 9.8 million people, 6 million are actively searching for jobs, and 2.2 million are “marginally attached” to the labor force, those who looked for work within the past year and not the past four weeks. Others are “discouraged workers” who quit looking for jobs because they think there’s nothing available.

Perry leftPerry is also worried because “there are more women out of the workforce now than at any time in our history, that’s just not right.” He’s correct: it’s not right. It’s the lowest rate since 1988, but the women’s labor force participation is almost twice as much as it was in 1948. Just like the overall labor force participation rate, the percentage of working women peaked in early 2000 and declined after that because the country’s population is aging. The decline is expected to continue because of that reason.

If Perry wants to worry, he should consider employment in his home state of Texas. Although he boasted about 95 percent of Texas workers earning above the minimum wage, the state was tied for first with Mississippi in 2010 for the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage. At that time, 9.5 percent of people in Texas earned at or below minimum wage. By 2013, Texas got better, moving to fifth worst among 50 states with the percentage dropping to 6.4. States with higher percentages are Tennessee (7.4 percent), Idaho, Arkansas, and Alabama.

Perry, however, is worried only about the “maximum wage,” not the minimum wage.

The appearance on Meet the Press—and the new glasses—are just part of the governor’s attempt to reinvent himself for the 2016 election after the gaffes of 2012. He’s been on Jimmy Kimmel, traveled out of the country, and appealed to the Conservative Political Action Conference. He even spent some time at MSNBC with Joe Scarborough.

The “oops” times of cuddling a bottle of maple syrup in Vermont and the inability to remember three items—a traditional check for Alzheimers—might disappear if he had figured out how many people in the country are unemployed. That’s not likely to happen with comedians like Jon Stewart tracking such moments like the ones on last night’s The Daily Show. About Perry’s transition to a wiser man, Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant, said, “The margin for error is small. He needs to outperform those perceptions immediately and dramatically or he looks like the same guy in ’12.”  Last night he did.

His current problems may not be as serious as those for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who closed an important bridge and failed to spend a large percentage of funds for Superstorm Sandy after over a year, but he’s still being investigated by a grand jury. He wanted to unseat Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and thought that he could succeed after her arrest for drunk driving. She refused to quit, and, as punishment, he vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the public-integrity unit that traces fraud and corruption.

The Texas GOP has put the dismantling of the Public Integrity Unit into its platform for over three decades. One of its cases was the criminal case against former Rep. Tom DeLay for money laundering to hide corporate donations to state GOP candidates. Getting rid of Lehmberg would also mean that Perry could have named her replacement.

Lehmberg’s office was investigating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, a pet project of Perry’s, when he decided that she had to go. Eighteen scientists, including the Nobel laureate director, had resigned in protest from the multibillion-dollar agency, claiming that investment decisions were made without scientific review with tens of millions of dollars going to Perry supporters and donors for their business ventures. A pending case concerns the indictment of an agency executive for an improperly awarded $11 million grant.

Prosecutors only need to show that Perry offered considerations in return for actions by District Attorney Lehmberg for him to be determined guilty of breaking a state law. A Travis County judge said that Lehmberg was told that funding would be restored, even after the veto, if she resigned. Grand jurors could easily see this behavior as bribery or coercion. Last year Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint for alleged abuse of power. That grand jury’s term expired, and a new one has been seated.

Technically, a guilty charge would put Perry in a worse position than Christie because obstructing justice is determined worse than blocking a thoroughfare. Unless, of course, the federal government discovers that Christie offered favors in exchange for Superstorm Sandy funds.

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Perry’s latest move is to pay Toyota $40 million to move from California to Texas. That’s $10,000 for each job, the highest rate of corporate welfare in a decade. The last time Texas was in fiscal trouble, Perry used billions of dollars in federal money for a bailout. His refusal to take Medicaid, however, stops him from using that solution again.

Humorist Andy Borowitz wrote, “With an eye toward a Presidential run in 2016, Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is hoping that a two-pronged strategy of wearing glasses and not speaking will make him appear smarter to voters.” Perry forgot the second suggestion.

Decisions for both Christie and Perry may decide the fate of Jeb Bush. With them out of the way, the GOP might be forced to consider a third Bush for a presidential candidate.  But then Rick Perry can stop worry about me.

April 8, 2014

Equal Pay Day – GOP Disses Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:30 PM
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Presidents frequently sign a proclamation to note important dates, but President Barack Obama went far beyond a statement of support today. On Equal Pay Day 2014, the president has signed two new executive orders to move women toward equal pay with men.

Both orders are similar to provisions in the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that the Senate is considering this week but the House is pretty sure to ignore:

  1. Prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share salary information with others.
  2. Instruct the Department of Labor to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to report wage-related data to the government.

The Senate is considering the Paycheck Fairness Act that would not only include these two provisions for most other employers but also require them to prove that gender differences in pay are based on issues other than sex. In addition, it would strengthen penalties for violations in equal pay.

President Obama began supporting equal pay as soon as he took over the office in January 2009. His first act was to sign an equal pay bill inspired by the SCOTUS decision against Lily Ledbetter, who discovered after 20 years with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. that men in her same job with equal or less experience earned much more money than she did. When she sued, SCOTUS maintained that she had only 180 days from being hired to complain, despite the fact that she didn’t learn about the different wages for 20 years. Congress passed the law that made the 180 days contingent on learning about the inequities.

Equal Pay Day is named for the date each year to show how far women must work into the current year to match the pay that men made the previous year. This year that day is April 8, better than April 18 in 2005, but not as good as April 3 in 1998. In Europe, Equal Pay Day is March 12 this year, showing that European women are closer to equality than we are in the United States.

Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 reaffirmed the Equal Pay Act, signed by President John F. Kennedy a year earlier on June 10, 1963.  That  legislation “prohibits discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers,” and the 1964 act prohibits employer discrimination on sex, race, religion, and/or nationality. Yet women who work full time in the U.S. make an average of 77 cents for every dollar men make. Black and Hispanic women make much less, and the disparity is growing. Hispanics currently make 54 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Even considering factors contributing to the gap such as industry, education, college major, and location, men are still paid 7 percent more than women.

Young women who recently graduated from college earn only 82 percent of the salaries of their recently graduated male counterparts who studied the same majors, completed the same degrees, and entered the same occupations. In 2012, personal care and service work was the only one of 265 major occupations in which women made, on average, more than men.

Lisa Maatz, AAUW Vice President of Government Relations, wrote about the gender pay gap:

  1. The pay gap hasn‘t budged in a decade.
  2. Women in every state experience the pay gap, but some states are worse than others—Wyoming at the bottom with women paid 64 percent of what men were paid in 2012.
  3. The pay gap grows with age, beginning with 90 percent until age 35 and then dropping.
  4. The pay gap also exists among women without children.

Republicans argue that the issue is a distraction and that the proposed legislative solution is unnecessary. Texas Gov. Rick Perry used this argument when he appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, calling the debate in the state governor’s race “nonsense,” saying the Democrats should focus on “substantive issues.” The gubernatorial candidates are Perry’s friend, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, and the woman who filibustered against abortion restrictions for 11 hours, state Sen. Wendy Davis. Perry is considering another presidential run in 2016.

To protect Texas retailers, Perry  vetoed a bill last year to allow victims of wage discrimination to sue in state court. The Texas Retailers Association and the Texas Association of business and the National Federation of Independent Businesses secretly requested the gubernatorial veto. The bill would have benefited people in the state because they would have easier access and less expense in state courts. Retailers objected to including retirement checks that weren’t included in the bill.

Also ignoring women voters, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, asked what the Paycheck Fairness Act would do for men.

Conservatives use a variety of arguments in their attempts trying to show that there is no pay inequality between men and women: different career paths, more overtime in male-dominated blue-collar work, fewer hours worked by women. These arguments don’t consider the research in pay difference when both men and women with the same skills work the same jobs for the same number of hours and in the same conditions. Women are also punished if they ask about wage differences, keeping them from trying to get equal pay.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly called unequal gender pay a “meme,” and Dana Loesch said it is a “myth.” Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is struggling with re-election as Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin forces him to the right, calls gender equality in pay a “bizarre obsession.” McConnell will likely win the primary in a few weeks, but then he’s up against Alison Lundergan Grimes.

McConnell already voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2010 which doesn’t fit well with his statement that he’s always supported women. His record says otherwise as he voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and against renewing the Violence against Women Act in 2013. In Kentucky, women make only 72 cents for every man’s dollar. Luckily for McConnell he’s raking in the donations, even from dead people.

In addition to claiming that equal pay would be a “burden” on employers, the GOP talking point is that Democrats didn’t bother to do anything about it when they had a majority in both chambers of Congress and the presidency. The statement is wrong, either through ignorance or lying. When the Dems brought up the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2010, it passed with House, then controlled by the Democrats, although 97 percent of the GOP voted against it. In the Senate, the bill got only 58 votes, two votes short of the new “majority” of 100 senators because of the filibuster. The Democrats tried again in 2012, but failed. This week if the Senate passes the Paycheck Fairness Act again, the GOP-controlled House needs only one person to vote it down—Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) when he refuses to bring it to the chamber.

If women earned equal pay for equal work, the country’s economy would boost GDP by 2.9 percent or almost $450 billion and cut the poverty rate in half for working women.

The next time a person says, “We’re all for equal pay,” ask them why they don’t vote for it. If they say that women already have legal pay, ask them why they’re fighting a bill if it’s not any problem.

 

July 11, 2013

Perry an Example of Conservatives

What’s worse than cutting the amount of food stamp funding from the farm bill? Eliminating them entirely. And that’s what the GOP House members did this afternoon in a 216-208 vote—no Democrats for the bill and 12 Republicans voting against it. The farm will has always been a total package: subsidies and benefits to farmers and nutritional programs such as SNAP to the poor, but House GOP leaders hope that separating them will entirely get rid of this help for hungry people.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) pointed out that the bad policy ignored the bipartisan policy of the House Agriculture Committee. The farm bill that the House passed is for five years, but the food stamps would be on an annual basis if it could even pass, which is most unlikely. The biggest cuts to food stamps in history came in 1996 when then Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed turning the program over to the states, but the bill had to provide food stamps for it to pass the Senate. The law authorized SNAP for only two years.

Republicans are perfectly happy spending the bulk of taxes to make military toys that don’t work and to go into other countries to kill people while denying food the poor—primarily women, children, and elders. Stuart Varney, who hosts a Fox “business show,” rants against providing help to people while ignoring the fact that many of them are hard-working employees at places like Walmart with salaries below the poverty level.

Texas is a fine example of poverty, both physical and intellectual, in this country. The state has known only the devastation of George W. Bush and Rick Perry as its leaders for almost two decades. Last Monday, Perry announced that he will not run for another term, and instead finish by  “working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation.” He may be considering another run for president so that he can destroy a much larger area of the world.

Only 18 percent of Texas Republicans support him in this, and a survey showed him coming in sixth with 7 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had 27 percent support. Republican strategist Ford McConnell said that Perry was pretty much gone after the famous “oops” episode when the governor failed to remember the third government agency (EPA) that he wanted to eliminate even after his co-debaters tried to help him. I also remember the time in Vermont when he had a goofy smile on his face while cuddling a small bottle of maple syrup. Another “oops” moment was when he couldn’t remember how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perry’s legacy in the state of Texas shows how he would rule the nation if such a disastrous event were to occur:

Self-identified “pro-life” Perry presided over more than 260 executions—thus far—more than any other governor in history. After vetoing a bill banning executions of mentally disabled people, he executed a Mexican national who had been denied his right from the Mexican consulate and at least one man who was probably innocent.

Perry supported the state in its immunity for corporations and obsessive deregulations that resulted in the disaster of the fertilizer plant explosion in West.

Perry lambasted the government’s so-called socialist policies and swore he would gut FEMA while he begged the president for federal assistance after the fertilizer plant’s explosion.

Perry decried the 2009 federal recovery package, recommending that the state reject the money for the sake of independence, but balanced the state’s budget with billions of dollars from federal stimulus funding.

Perry called climate change a “contrived phony mess and a scam to make money.”

Perry, after the horrific drought and heat in 2011, tried to solve the problem by betting Texas residents to “pray for rain.”

Perry called evolution “just a theory that’s out there.”

Perry’s latest debacle is that his vigorous fight for the bill to close clinics in favor of ambulatory surgical centers would greatly profit his sister. In 2011 he pushed for and signed “emergency legislation” requiring women to have unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds before they were permitted to have legal abortions. Texas is also the place where two women were subjected to cavity searches—without a change in plastic gloves—after they were picked up for speeding.

Perry led Texas into becoming the nation’s worst polluter, leading the nation in carbon dioxide emissions and providing the home to half of the worst mercury-emitting power plants. His solution to avoid complying with an EPA ruling when he was in violation of the Clean Air Act was a lawsuit against the federal government. The governor also called the 2010 BP oil spill an “act of God” and then call for more oil drilling.

Perry tried to opt the state out of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, claiming that these programs are “Ponzi schemes” and unconstitutional. These programs actually bring billions of dollars into Texas.

Perry worked to continue legal discrimination against LBGT people. A staunch defender of the state’s unconstitutional anti-sodomy law, he blasted the Supreme Court after they overturned the law in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. Calling the justices “nine oligarchs in robes,” he evidently remembers the number of SCOTUS judges ten years ago. During his presidential campaign in 2012, his anti-gay ad against open service by gays and lesbians in the military accused President Obama of holding a “war on religion.” His speech last Monday boasted the state’s defense of “the sanctity of marriage” through writing discrimination into the state’s constitution.

Perry supported nullification of federal laws and threatened the secession of Texas from the United States.

Perry refuses to let the federal government provide healthcare for low-income residents in the state. More than 25 percent of Texans, 6,234,900 and growing, lack health care coverage. Then he has the gall to claim that Texas has the “best health care in the country.”

Perry vetoed bipartisan Equal Pay legislation after a GOP-controlled legislature passed the bill. He stated that he didn’t want regulations regarding women before he pushed through the highly restrictive restrictions against women.

Perry wants to repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to eliminate federal income tax and to stop people from electing federal senators. In his book Fed Up!, he wrote that both were passed only “a fit of populist rage.”

Perry is an example of the wacko, narcissistic Republicans, many of whom are in Congress. Like Perry, they are obsessed with opposing the president, keeping health care from a large number of people in the United States, and creating a government based on fundamentalist Christianity which includes the submission of women to men.

Now they’re readying the fight to take the debt ceiling hostage, demanding big budget cuts from President Obama and other Democrats. Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), authors of the draconian budget, and John Boehner (R-OH) are meeting with other conservatives such as Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) who bragged about their talks.

One of their goals is privatizing Medicare; another is drastically cutting spending in  the SNAP food stamp program and block-grant Medicaid while incorporating the chained CPI which would artificially revise the cost of living to disadvantage those on Social Security and Medicare. Another GOP plan raises the eligibility age for Social Security.

Conservatives continue to stall because these plans won’t pass the Senate. While they appear to give options to the White House, they plan rigid positions. As usual, Ryan is the key to debt-ceiling strategy walks. His major problem is that the deficit is falling faster than at any time since World War II which takes away their bargaining power.

The GOP is alienating everyone except white men, mostly older ones. Conservatives refuse to move forward on immigration reform unless all undocumented immigrants are criminalized. Conservatives refuse to do anything about voting rights, hoping that keeping minorities and poor people from the polls will put Republicans into control. Conservatives refuse to pass a reasonable interest rate for student loans, despite the fact that the current rate nets $51 billion for the U.S. Conservatives refuse to help poor people who lack food, shelter, and health care. Conservatives refuse to pass legislation that would improve the economy while they try to control women through taking away their reproductive rights.

Those actions—or inactions—leave them with a base of fewer than 30 percent of the people in the country. Having gerrymandered districts in the majority of states to control state legislators and the U.S. House, the GOP is convinced that it can continue with its lack of responsibility. The election in less than 16 months will show whether they are right.

June 27, 2013

Senate Moves, House Sits, Texas Goes Backward

The Senate actually did something, which happens occasionally. This afternoon it passed its immigration reform bill with a vote of 68-32. Not that this is necessarily a good thing because of the emphasis on border security and the requirement that all employers used the error-ridden E-Verify to check up on any applicants. Of the 32 GOP senators who opposed the bill, two were presidential wannabes, Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY). No GOP Senate leader voted in favor of the bill.

At least the Senate did something.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that they would create their own immigration bill. Thus far they’ve made no move toward it. They also haven’t done anything about the doubling of interest on student loans this Monday or overcome the sequester that’s biting into the economic recovery. Their only actions have been to re-overturn Obamacare and pass another anti-abortion bill, neither of which the Senate will support.

The House is also avoiding climate change. In describing his agenda for this , President Obama said, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” Majority House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) switched the subject to jobs, complaining about the president is “harming innovation [in a] direct assault on jobs.” No answer from the House about how to provide more jobs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is hiding from the IRS debacle. The GOP has continually whined about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. Yet Issa asked that the IRS limit its information to these audits, requesting investigators to “narrowly focus on tea party organizations,” according to spokesman for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.  Progressive groups got the same treatment as conservative Tea Party groups. The liberal group Catholics United, for instance, waited seven years before receiving tax exempt status, far longer than any tea party group had to wait.

There is a question about whether Issa was the instigator in concealing information from the public about the “inappropriate criteria” used to single out tea party groups–so-called “Be On the Look Out” (BOLO) memos–that also singled out progressive and “Occupy” groups.

George, a George W. Bush appointee, may be at fault. When asked last month if any progressive groups were targeted, he said that the IRS had not. Since then, he’s changed his mind. Also one of the main author’s of George’s report was relieved of his previous position as head of the special investigations unit at the Government Accountability Office because he wrote an incomplete report and was accused by a colleague of “pursuing overly sensationalist stories.”

After Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel appeared at the House Ways and Means Committee today, all the Democrats on the committee sent a letter to House Republicans demanding that they call the author of the audit report to return and testify under oath to explain why the report failed to tell the House that progressive groups were also targeted.

Issa has abandoned the IRS scandal that he created and gone back to investigating Benghazi.

Yesterday’s ruling that struck down DOMA has energized at least one member of Congress. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claims that he and other lawmakers will revive the Federal Marriage Amendment. “A narrow radical majority of the court has, in my opinion, substituted their personal views for the constitutional decisions of the American voters and their elected representatives,” Huelskamp said. It’s almost a case of “the pot calling the kettle black” except the obstructionist GOP “narrow radical majority” isn’t really the majority—just the vocal.

One faint gleam of hope appeared after SCOTUS erased the Voting Rights Act  two days ago. Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), instrumental in the 2006 VRA, is urging his colleagues to restore the provisions to protect voters. GOP Reps. Steve Chabot (OH) and Sean Duffy (WI) have declared support for a renewed VRA. After the Democratic caucus met to discuss the possibility of a new Section 4 to VRA, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she likes naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

One of the 13 original Freedom Riders in the early 1960s, Rep. Lewis (D-GA) was beaten by angry mobs, arrested, and sent to jail—several times. In response to the egregious SCOTUS decision giving all states the right to discriminate in any way that the GOP leaders wish, Lewis said:

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”

At the same time that state GOP legislators are working day and night to alienate women through their anti-abortion bills, the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is kicking off an initiative tomorrow that he says is “designed to advance the role of women within our party.” He will be joined by a few female lawmakers—perhaps because he could find only a few female GOP lawmakers.

Called Women on the Right Unite, the project was announced the same day that a Texas GOP lawmaker described state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her allies as terrorists. Davis’ act of terror was to filibuster an evil anti-abortion bill during a special legislative session. The GOP lawmakers failed to get the bill passed before the deadline so they lied about when the vote was completed.

The GOP refuses to change its policies of similar legislation in other states and at the federal level. Republicans won’t stop mandating unnecessary medical procedures not recommended by women’s physicians, making idiotic comments about rape, and opposing pay equity. The party wants women to buy into their antediluvian view of the differences between the genders. While the GOP talks about uniting women behind their view, they will also continue to drive more and more women into poverty. That, however, won’t be part of the discussion.

According to the press release, tomorrow’s news conference will follow a strategy session at RNC headquarters, where committees and elected officials will discuss “how to better engage and support Republican women.” I’m guessing that there are several hundreds of women in Texas who could contribute to this discussion.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took on Davis in his halting speech at the National Right to Life Conference when he described her as a teenage mother and the daughter of a single woman. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters,” Perry said.

As governor, Perry executed his 262nd person, a 52-year-old woman, yesterday.  On the same day he signed into law the new gerrymandered map redistricting the state so that minorities can be disenfranchised.

Three cheers for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto accused her of declaring a “war on men” and trying “to criminalize male sexuality.” McCaskill’s sin, according to Taranto, was to put a hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force Space Command because Helms had reduced the conviction of aggravated sexual assault to an indecent act without having watched the trial. Taranto blamed the assaulted women for drinking and then getting into a car with a man; the columnist claimed that she “acted recklessly.”

Current military law allows Helms to substitute her personal judgment for that of a jury that she selected. As McCaskill wrote Taranto:

“What [Helms] did was not a crime. But it was an error, and a significant one. I’m hopeful that our work this year will remove the ability of a commander to substitute their judgment, and sometimes also their ingrained bias, for that of a jury who has heard the witnesses and made a determination of their credibility and the facts of the case.”

The entire letter is well-worth reading because it shows how well the people of Missouri are represented by this senator.

Another woman to watch is Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) when she takes down federal contractor, Braulio Castillo, who claimed his foot injury (possibly sprained ankle) at a military prep school gave him special status as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.” Some of you may remember that Duckworth lost both her legs in the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down.

Castillo’s company, Strong Castle, won contracts with the IRS worth as much as $500 million. Duckworth’s disability rating is 20 percent; Castillo gets (at least until now) a 30-percent disability for his twisted ankle.

The tape is 8 minutes long, but it shows how well another Democratic woman serves the country.

January 16, 2013

President Releases Gun Control Plans, Conservatives Rage

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:10 PM
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Following the horrific shooting 34 days ago in Newtown (CT) where 28 people, including 20 six- and seven-year-old children, died, President Obama promised to have a plan of action by February. He moved ahead his agenda and, yesterday, he outlined his effort to prevent gun violence in the United States. The complete plan includes signing 23 executive orders and sending a set of proposals to Congress that covers mental health, gun safety, and firearms ownership. Many of these proposals are ones that other people have consistently suggested:

  • Making background checks universal. Congress should require every single gun owner to go through a proper background check to determine any criminal history or diagnosed mental illness. That would include everyone purchasing guns at gun shows and from private buyers, whether the weapons are new or used.
  • Improving state reporting of criminals and the mentally ill. States should receive more money to enter this data into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) so that they cannot use this as an excuse and receive stronger guidelines so they know what data should be entered.
  • Banning assault weapons. Congress should reinstate the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which outlaws military-grade weapons, like the AR-15 used by Newtown gunman Adam Lanza and by Aurora Theater gunman James Holmes as well as closing any loopholes identified in the 1994 law.
  • Capping magazine clip capacity at 10 bullets. Congress should ban not only military-grade weapons but also all extended magazine clips that hold over 10 bullets. This ban was also part of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.
  • Purging armor-piercing bullets. Congress should ban the possession and transfer of these “cop killer bullets.” Current sales are banned but nothing else.
  • Funding police officers.  Congress should reverse its course of austerity for public employees by approving $4 billion to fund police enforcement around the country.
  • Strengthening gun tracking. The president will issue a memorandum mandating that all agencies trace back firearms to their original owners to collect data for the source of weapons used in crimes. Congress should also allow law enforcement to do background checks on guns seized during investigations.
  • Supporting research on gun violence. The president hopes to gather data on gun violence and misuse of firearms in order to inform the work of law enforcement. He also wants to restart research, long blocked by the NRA, on how video games, the media, and violence affect violent gun crimes. The Centers for Disease Control will immediately begin these efforts, but Congress should add $10 million to the pot of funding for such research.
  • Encouraging mental health providers to get involved. The president will encourage mental health professionals to alert people with homicidal thoughts to keep these people from gaining access to weapons. Doing so is not in violation of patient privacy laws. The president also wants medical professionals to know that Obamacare does not prevent doctors from talking to patients about guns.
  • Promoting safe gun ownership. The White House will start a “responsible gun ownership” campaign to encourage gun owners to lock up their firearms, and the president will also work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure safes and gun locks on the market are effective. He is also calling on the justice department to help him come up with new gun safety technology.
  • Funding school counseling.  Congress should fund the positions of 1,000 news school counselors through both the existing COPS Hiring Grant and a new Comprehensive School Safety program with $150 million in additional funding for new school counselors and social workers.
  • Encouraging safe, anti-bullying school environments. The president wants over 8,000 schools to receive $50 million in new funding to encourage safer school environments, help at-risk students by collecting data on what services students need, and remedy other problems through putting professionals in schools. He will also issue guidelines on school discipline policies.
  • Recognizing the mental health needs of low-income Americans. The president wants to expand Medicaid so that low-income recipients have the same access to professional help as those who have money to pay for it. Obama will issue a directive to heads of state health programs, enforcing “mental health parity” — the idea that mental health should be treated as a priority as important as physical health.

 

 

As expected, the conservatives have risen up against the president’s program. An example of this protest is Chappell Harris of Charlotte (NC) who makes fabrics to cover bullet-resistant vests. Interviewed at a gun show, he said that supported Obama’s plan to close the “gun-show loophole” by requiring background checks of purchasers at such events and Obama’s declaration that nothing in health-privacy laws prevents mental health professionals from alerting authorities about patients who may be violent threats. “He’s not saying anything anyone disagrees with there,” Harris said. “But that’s always his ploy.”

Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) response shows what the United States would become if he had become president. After watching President Obama’s speech on preventing gun violence, Perry said that the president’s statements “disgust” him. Instead of new policies, the country should “pray for our children.” According to Perry’s website, “The sad young man who did that in Newtown was clearly haunted by demons and no gun law could have saved the children in Sandy Hook Elementary from his terror.”

Although President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any other president, his speech today resulted in a high level of rage among the right-wing politicians and pundits. As usual when these conservatives speak of the president, they use comparisons to dictators such as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Saddam Hussein.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) plans to introduce articles of impeachment, calling Obama’s anti-gun violence efforts “an existential threat to this nation.” Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) agreed that impeachment “should be on the table” and falsely claimed that Obama wants an executive order to “ban guns.” Even Former Attorney General Edwin Meese (R) is dragging the Heritage Foundation into the impeachment threat.

In Oregon, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller has sent a letter to Vice President Biden three days ago about his decision not to enforce, or allow federal officials to enforce, any new federal firearms laws in his county. Apparently, the sheriff believes that he is in control of what laws to enforce:

“Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County, Oregon.”

There are new measures pending in the South Carolina and North Dakota state legislatures on ignoring new federal gun policies, started before the president announced them, and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) wants state legislation that would make any “unconstitutional order” on gun policy taken by President Obama “illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state and local law enforcement.” Unlike Bryant, most people in the country understand that the court decides what legislation is “unconstitutional,” not legislatures.

Wyoming plans to introduce a bill called the Firearm Protection Act which would allow for the arrest of federal agents who come to enforce federal laws at the state level. The penalty is at least one year in jail and/or $5,000 in fines. Texas plans to follow suit with fines up to $50,000.

The conservative Obama-haters are so rabid that they’re even attacking a man who helped the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School on the day of the shooting. After he heard the shooting, he found six terrified children and their bus driver at the end of his driveway. Gene Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist, took them into his house, fed them, and listened to their stories about the massacre and about the teacher who protected them with her body.

Conservatives are now calling Rosen a liar for the government and a satanist. One of them even accused him of sacrificing a child in his basement. As a result he has received hostile emails, some of them demanding to know how much he was paid to lie. He is jeered at in restaurants. Tragically, the Sandy Hook “truther” movement is gaining momentum to fight people who call for gun control.

The stupidity of these people who think that praying will solve everything and, worse, don’t believe that it actually happened, is only exceeded by their cruelty.

July 16, 2012

How Can We Fix This Mess?

This morning at breakfast while I was chatting with my partner, she asked, “What would it take to bring back the economy?” Because of my past in literature, math is not my strong suit: I find even balancing my checkbook to be a challenge. Fortunately, E.J. Dionne had an informative column this morning that addressed this issue. He wrote things that I’ve been saying for several years—ever since George W. Bush started destroying the country.

Here are some ideas from Dionne’s column, “How Do We Restore Americans’ Upward Mobility”:

According to reports from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, places like Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden and Germany have far greater social mobility than the United States. Conservatives would never accept their policies, however, because they consider these countries as “socialist” with their strong unions and a far better safety net than this country does. They also have health insurance for all, more affordable higher education, good job training and apprentice programs, and higher taxes.  Conservatives want no safety net and unions, expensive higher education, limited health insurance, and low taxes for the wealthy.

Dionne cites Timothy Noah’s new book, The Great Divergence, which explains the reason for rapidly increasing inequalities in wealth and income between the top one or two percent and the rest of the people in this country. These include “the increasing importance of a college degree due to the shortage of better-educated workers; trade between the United States and low-wage nations; changes in government policy in labor and finance; and the decline of the labor movement.” Another prime reason is the salary structure of U.S. CEOs that causes them to receive at least three times the salaries of those in European CEOs.

In his column, Dionne also cites a recent op-ed piece from David Brooks that solves the income inequity through adopting norms requiring marriage before child-rearing and tax increases to spend more “on the earned-income tax credit and other programs that benefit the working class.” Brooks is 50 percent right: “the working class” needs more programs to help them. But if getting married before having kids will help the economy, then the economy of the United States in the 1990s would have been in the toilet the way it is now.

The only problem with Dionne’s column is that he provides no solutions: conservative lawmakers will always refuse to solve the country’s problems if it means that they personally have to shell out one red cent more in taxes. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) summarized the conservative philosophy: “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally.” A recent report by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) found that tax dodging, including offshore tax havens, shifts $100 billion onto taxpaying Americans. Only the wealthy can afford to have the loopholes and tax dodges.

The best example of limited government is life in this country a century ago. Almost 100 years ago, a commission discovered that the top two percent owned 60 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the bottom 60 percent owned just 5 percent of the wealth. Afraid of violent revolution from the poor, the wealthy supported doing something about the inequity. Today the top ten percent of people in this country control 70 percent of the wealth whereas the bottom 50 percent has only 2.5 percent, growing closer and closer to a century ago. And the Occupy Movement made some of the wealthy very nervous.

The major difference between then and now is the conclusion of the commission that the divide went beyond economics. This inequality in wealth, according to the commission, threatened to undermine the national ideal that hard work would bring just reward. “Effective action by Congress is required…,” the report proclaimed, “to check the growth of an hereditary aristocracy, which is foreign to every conception of American Government and menacing to the welfare of the people and the existence of the Nation as a democracy.” Instead of promoting the belief that “corporations are people,” the commission assumed that concentrations of corporate power were undemocratic, that gigantic fortunes “constitute a menace to the State,” and that it was the duty of government to restore a balance of power.

The commission offered two chief solutions. The first was an inheritance tax, aimed at the entrepreneur’s offspring who did nothing to earn the money. The second was increased support for union organizing because workers deserved to elect their own representatives on the job just as they did in the government. The inheritance tax became law almost immediately, and the union organizing rights developed through the next few decades, becoming stronger and stronger until the second half of the 20th century. Today’s conservative lawmakers are rapidly erasing both of these solutions.

Conservatives, notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have railed against the government-imposed income tax, but they ignore the fact that the 16th Amendment, which enshrined income tax in the Constitution, was a bipartisan effort. All three presidential candidates supported this, and the states endorsed the constitutional amendment by an overwhelming vote. President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, said it best in a 1906 speech when he described the responsibility of wealthy people because they received “special advantages from the mere existence of government.” Texas was the first state to sign off on the amendment.

While browsing through the Internet for information about income 100 years ago, I came across this curious website showing the Gini index for every county in the United States. This index goes from 1, indicating absolute inequality in which only one household in a county has any income, to zero, indicating absolute equality in which all households have the same income. Counties with the greatest inequality are in the South; almost one-third of the countries there have indexes in the top one-fifth. The Midwest benefited from the majority of the counties being in the bottom fifth of the index. Although more populated counties had a tendency to have higher inequality, some rural areas in eastern Kentucky, the Mississippi Delta, and the Black Belt also suffer from high inequality. Check out your county!

A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that the United States is fourth from the bottom in income inequality among 34 nations studied for the report. Only Mexico, Chile, and Turkey scored lower. According to the report, the U.S. education system is now “… less effective than those of other countries in helping children realize their potential. The United States is one of only three OECD countries that on average spend less on students from disadvantaged backgrounds than on other students.” The U.S. is falling way behind the rest of the world in terms of students in the STEM programs—science, technology, engineering, and math.

The problem of income inequality, the report concluded, can be “bad for health, education, innovation and economic well being.” Also the U.S. tax and benefits system is much less effective in reducing relative poverty than that of other countries studied in the report.

The OECD recommends that the federal government refocus its safety net programs to better address the needs of the very poor and prioritize job creation to solve the problem of unemployment that has resulted in increased poverty. While this country has a higher percentage of people in poverty than countries in Europe, there are more billionaires in the U.S. than anywhere else.

The economists also criticized the tax system in the U.S.: “Although the middle class have seen their taxes remain roughly constant, or slightly increase, average income taxes have significantly declined for the most wealthy, especially the 1% top earners.” The OECD recommended that the United States adopt policies that would make higher-income Americans pay more in taxes to help boost the U.S. economy and eliminate some tax breaks for high-income individuals on mortgage interest and health insurance. The report also proposes reducing tax breaks corporations receive when they borrow to make investments.

While the U.S. Congress has focused on passing a number of anti-abortion bills and pushed for lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy, it has voted down the OECD recommendations. Mitt Romney has rejected all these recommendations, and the Romney/Ryan budget goes in the exact opposite direction.

The only solution is to get rid of the conservative lawmakers. I loved the bumper sticker I saw this morning: “Wish for functional government.”

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