Nel's New Day

December 8, 2013

Religious Figures at Odds with Each Other

Is the GOP obsession with religion dissipating? One piece of evidence comes from the response to Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK)’s statements television ad for his re-election campaign in which he said:

“I’m not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in His word. The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does. And neither political party is always right.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee responded, “Is [the Bible] really not a good rule book for political issues and decisions made in the Senate?” Even Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican running against Pryor, took his side, calling the NRSC’s response “incredibly bizarre and offensive.” Cotton’s campaign spokesperson added, “We should all agree that America is better off when all our public officials in both parties have the humility to seek guidance from God.”

Most likely Cotton is pandering for votes. His statements follow Pryor’s campaign manager’s ire toward the NRSC: “It’s frankly despicable that Congressman Cotton’s Washington allies are manipulating quotes to question the sincerity of Mark’s religious beliefs. Tom Cotton needs to step up and denounce these shameful attacks on Mark Pryor’s faith.” Cotton did, but it probably won’t help him with NRSC support.

Rush Limbaugh also got excited about Pope Francis’ denouncement of unfettered capitalism (sometimes called extortion) by saying that “this is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.” Catholics in Alliance took umbrage at Limbaugh’s take on the pope and called on “Catholics and other allies throughout the nation to support the Holy Father.” Their petition states:

“Francis’s critique of unrestrained capitalism is in line with the Church’s social teaching. His particular criticism of ‘trickle down economics’ strengthens what Church authorities have said for decades: any economic system which deprives the poor of their dignity has no place within a just society. Contrary to what Mr. Limbaugh suggests, the Catholic Church isn’t built on money, but on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.”

Other conservatives have joined Limbaugh in expelling bile about Pope Francis’ belief that unfettered capitalism is tyranny. World Net Daily (WND) published a cartoon portraying the pope as a socialist based on the non-biblical saying “Teach a man to fish.”

pope fish

WND author Jonathan Moseley used Luke 12:13-14 in a misguided attempt to prove that Jesus believed in unfettered capitalism:

“Someone in the crowd said to Him [Jesus Christ], ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’”

Moseley continued by declaring that Jesus is opposed to greed but doesn’t see that hoarding the family inheritance shows greed from unfettered capitalism.

A short lesson in “isms”:

  • Socialism: an economy in which the community as a whole or its government owns and controls production.
  • Communism: both political structure and economic production are owned by the government.
  • Capitalism: people own and control production to create more competition with the goal of low prices and high pay.

Capitalism, which allows people to own and control production, is based on competition which should keep prices low and pay high. Unfettered capitalism leads to the reverse—high prices and low pay because monopolies and collusion between companies prevent competition.

Moseley also assumes that crony capitalism comes from corrupt government’s involvement in business. It’s actually the reverse when business gets too involved with government. An example of crony capitalism is the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the watering-down of the Dodd-Frank Act. Financial regulators don’t regulate, and Citigroup wrote legislation to strip the remainder of Dodd-Frank. Pope Francis rejects crony capitalism and rejects the monopolies created by unfettered capitalism.

U.S. Catholic bishops, however, are staying mum on the subject. Perhaps they’re preparing for the endangerment lawsuit against them.

Last year, millions of people in the world were outraged after they learned of a pregnant women in Ireland who died after miscarrying a 17-week-old fetus. A Catholic hospital refused to terminate her pregnancy. Abortion is legal in the United States, but one-sixth of all hospitals, because they are Catholic, refuse to provide this surgical treatment for women, even to save their lives.

Three years ago, Tamesha Means went to the nearest hospital after her water broke when she was 18 weeks pregnant. In pain and with no care, she was sent home from the Michigan hospital to await a miscarriage, despite the high risk of infection from the broken water sac. An 18-week-old fetus is at least one month before viability, and a non-Catholic hospital would offer her an abortion or induce labor. The nearest hospital, however, was Catholic based.

Means returned to the hospital for help a second time and was again sent home without any. Only on her third visit when she had an infection and was delivering the fetus was she permitted to stay. Now, in conjunction with ACLU, she is suing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It is because of the Conference’s directives, forbidding any abortion or delivery of an infant pre-viability even to save the woman’s life, that the hospital could not help Means.

Many people are not aware of the way that the Catholic Church has taken over U.S. health care and the dangers for people because of religious mandates for hospitals and doctors taking precedence over the best interests of patients. Despite the religious control over patients, billions of dollars (over $45 billion in 2002 alone) come from taxpayer funding.

Bill O’Reilly is also an authority on religion. He claims that his book Killing Jesus was divinely inspired, so it’s no surprise that he also knows what Jesus thought. In an interview with Pentecostal Pastor Joshua Dubois, O’Reilly shared his knowledge about how Jesus didn’t mean alcoholics and drug addicts to have food stamps:

“The problem I have, as I stated is that you’re helping one group by hurting another group and a bigger group, and so I don’t know if Jesus is going to be down with that.”

Dubois didn’t accept O’Reilly’s conclusion:

“Jesus would be down for the poor. He would want to make sure every single person in this country had enough food to eat. And the bottom line is if you add up every single private charitable dollar that feeds hungry people in this country, it’s only 10 percent of what we would need to make sure everyone has food in their stomachs. The rest comes from the federal government.”

After O’Reilly tried to educate Dubois about how all those bad people are just going to “buy booze and drugs” instead of food, Dubois patiently explained:

“With all due respect, there’s a lot of misconceptions in what you just said. The vast majority of that program goes to elderly people, people who are disabled, 46 percent are children and most people are working families.”

In another “misconception,” Fox network is complaining the Sharia law is “changing everything,” according to Heather Nauert. She is complaining about a weekly swim practice for Muslim Somali-American girls at a St. Paul YMCA in partnership with the police department to allow for the girls’ modesty and religi8ous beliefs. Shall we wait for them to complain about Christian law “changing everything”?

Their next complaint will be the takeover of “Satanic law” if the Satanic Temple follows the “freedom of religion” amendment to install a memorial on Oklahoma statehouse grounds next to the state’s display of the Ten Commandments.  Anton LaVey, founder of the Church Of Satan in 1966, has based his beliefs on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism that celebrates selfishness as a virtue. People may be more familiar with Rand’s works after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) extolled Rand’s virtues.

In contrast to the fundamentalist belief in selfishness, today, December 8, is the Buddhist holy day of Rohatsu, or Bodhi Day. Celebrated as the day that Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under the bodhi tree, Buddhists meditate, study Buddhist texts, chant, or perform acts of kindness to others. Lewis Richmond wrote, “Living in the light of humility, kindness and compassion is the deep lesson and timeless inspiration of Bodhi Day.” Christians could take a lesson from Buddha instead of restructuring their Jesus into a macho, judgmental warrior.

The best religious news for the week: The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a petition filed by the Christian Liberty University to stop the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act for each person to purchase health insurance. It leaves intact the ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowing this mandate. All SCOTUS has left to decide is whether corporations—those people, you know!—can be religious and refuse contraception to its employees.

September 28, 2013

News Hiding among GOP Shutting Down the Government

The news media has been fixated about the possibility of the U.S. government shutting down with a sideways glance at the first conversation between a U.S. president and an Iranian president in 34 years. The latest comes from The Hill which reports that the House voted to move more quickly on the Continuing Resolution that the Senate sent back to them yesterday. (The article reports that “just a handful of Republicans and Democrats” voted against changing the rule: that “handful” is actually 191 votes—44 percent of the members.)

Rapid voting won’t help because the GOP is adding two amendments to the Senate’s version of the CR, one delaying Obamacare for one year and the other repealing the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices in Obamacare. Another addition is a “conscience clause,” meaning that anyone, for example pharmacists, could refuse preventative care for women. This evening they’re just sitting around delaying the vote. It’s gone beyond ideological to thumbing their noses at women’s rights.

One governor who wants Obamacare is Kentucky’s Steve Beshear who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “My State Needs Obamacare. Now.”  Pointing out that Kentucky is among the sickest, most unhealthy state in the nation, he credits the Medicaid expansion and Kynect health exchange for providing affordable coverage to more than 600,000 Kentuckians, creating 17,000 jobs, and saving the state $800 million. He writes to his GOP senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and others:

“So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, ‘Get over it.’ Get over it … and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.”

Here’s other news that hasn’t receive attention because of the concentration on Ted Cruz’s and the Tea Party’s games:

The best news is that 32-year-old Marissa Alexander will receive a new trial after serving of her 20-year prison sentence in Florida. Over three years ago, her husband  broke through a locked door into the bathroom where she was hiding, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her to the floor. She escaped into the garage but couldn’t escape. When she returned  into the house with a gun, her husband said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” She fired the gun into the ceiling. The jury took 12 minutes to refuse her claims of self-defense. Firing a gun during a felony gives a mandatory 20-year sentence in Florida.

A state appellate panel reversed the conviction because the court had instructed the jury that she had to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The “stand your ground” law puts the burden of proof on the prosecutor. That’s the reason that the jury failed to award George Zimmerman a guilty verdict for killing Trayvon Martin. The appellate court also stated that Alexander didn’t have to prove she had been injured by her husband because he was not hurt in the shooting.

Alexander, who had no criminal record, had never been arrested, and she had a restraining order against her husband. She was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor in the Zimmerman case.

The next time that conservatives snarl about the current president having used illegal drugs in the past, think about their hypocrisy. According to an advocacy group trying to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), at least 100 million “successful Americans” have used marijuana and “even more” think it should be legal. These include such high-profile conservatives as presidential wannabes Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and George W. Bush.

The same conservatives who want a “War on Drugs” also think that federal surveillance is important for their safety. A new audit of the Department of Justice finds that the statistics of terrorism have been overstated (aka falsified). In 2009, figures for terrorist convictions were inflated by 13 percent; in the next year, that rate of exaggeration doubled to 26 percent. The Department of Justice branch responsible for these figures, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), gave the reason as human error and “shoddy recordkeeping”—counting terrorists twice or counting those with dismissed charges as convictions. Convictions for non-terrorist crimes such as bank robbery, drug dealing, and animal fighting were also incorrectly classified as terrorist convictions. The insistence that NSA’s surveillance program disrupted 50 terrorist plots is equally false.

By not paying taxes, giant corporations have the money to sue countries around the world. Philip Morris has lawsuits against the Australian government to overturn public health laws aimed at reducing teenage smoking. Chevron has hired 2,000 lawyers in an attempt to avoid paying Ecuador $19 billion in damages due for the horrific oil spills they inflicted. Bayer is suing Europe to overturn their ban on bee-killing pesticide—all while investing millions with Monsanto to defeat an effort to label GM foods in the U.S.

While going through my email requests for petition-signers, I came across this gem. The National Football League (NFL), a $9 billion a year industry, is tax-exempt because it claims to be a non-profit organization. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes almost $30 million a year, more than the heads of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart; the NFL controls more than $50 billion in contracts with television networks. Taxpayers fund stadiums where NFL teams play. The Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association aren’t tax-free: the NFL should have to pay taxes.

Allen West, famous for his sexist language while he was a one-term U.S. GOP representative from Florida, has left his job at Pajamas Media. There are two versions about why. West said he resigned. Others said that he was fired after he told a female staffer to “shut up” and called her a “Jewish American princess.” West described it as “an exchange.”

In closing most of its women’s clinics in Texas, legislators used the falsehood that the reason was women’s safety. Texas Tribune has now officially debunked that lie with a review of state inspection records for 36 clinics that provided abortions. Although auditors found 19 regulatory violations they claimed were risks to patient safety at six of the clinics not ambulatory surgical centers, none was severe enough to warrant financial penalties. The facilities’ corrective actions were sufficient to protect the patients. In the past five years, the Texas Medical Board took action for just three doctors who performed abortions, all for administrative infractions. During the past 15 years, however, the maternal mortality rate for Texas has quadrupled.

The tiniest blip on the radar is probably the most dangerous news for people in the U.S. and the world. Secret negotiations for the proposed “free trade” agreement among over 12 countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to be concluded in October, will destroy the U.S.’s ability to make laws protecting the country. A drastic consequence is the dissolution of our internet freedoms. Provisions in this agreement, according to leaks, deal with intellectual property, including online copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and Internet intermediary liability. If passed, the TPP provisions will infringe on privacy, freedom of expression, and innovation on the Internet.

Specific risks would include blocking deaf and blind people from existing uses of the Internet; forcing service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards; kicking entire families off the Internet for minor copyright infringements; giving media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use and remove online content—including entire websites; and creating a parallel legal system of international tribunals that will undermine national sovereignty and allow conglomerates to sue countries for laws that infringe on their profits.

After individuals and organizations began protesting TPP, the negotiations went farther underground with no meeting announcements from the U.S. Trade Rep. There may have been one in September in Mexico City during which countries resistant to U.S. demands to sign onto the standards may have been strong-armed into doing so. .

Congress members in Peru have presented a motion to demand a thorough and public debate on current TPP proposals and for trade delegates to give a comprehensive report on the ongoing negotiations. Chilean Senators recently called for a public debate on TPP, requesting the President to provide “timely and accurate” information on the affects of the agreement on their country. In New Zealand, a Parliamentary member is demanding answers from the Prime Minister about the secrecy of the agreement and how its provisions could undermine consumer protection laws. Canadian Member of Parliament Don Davies has called on the Prime Minister to give Parliamentary Member access to the TPP, especially in light of documents revealing how a small group of industry associations have had special access to Canada’s negotiating position. The Malaysian Cabinet released a statement saying that it would not be bound by a fixed timeline on TPP and calling for more transparency in the process.

At this point, the timeline for TPP’s conclusion is ambiguous. The U.S. Trade Rep Michael Froman continues to claim that the U.S. will not force countries to rush a deal by any particular deadline, while also stating that the Obama administration has placed top priority on concluding the TPP before the end of the year.

My favorite: Two weeks ago when First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to encourage people to drink more water, Rush Limbaugh did his usual attack against her: “This is really absurd.  Drink more water?  It’s none of their business.  Why do they care?  You drink when you’re thirsty.” Hopefully, no one looks at Limbaugh as an example of someone in good health. At this point, one way to kill off conservatives would be for Michelle Obama to recommend breathing. Meanwhile, I’m trying to drink more water. It’s my personal protest against the right-wing conservatives.

July 31, 2013

Jail, Threats, Fraud, Cookies, and More

Some news you might not see in mainstream media:

The Wall Street Journal’s announcement that the game Monopoly was doing away with its jail sentence, making the game look way too much like reality, created a great deal of hoop-la. Even John Oliver, Jon Stewart’s summer sub on The Daily Show, got into the excitement. It seems, however, that WSJ was wrong. Jail, at least in Monopoly, is here to stay. Wonder what else Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ is wrong about.

monopoly-jail-top630

Putting a picture of Jane Austen on the Bank of England bank note also caused great interest, especially for the people who sent rape and death threats to the major campaigner for using Austen’s picture. British people caught two of them, one a 21-year-old man who sent a about 50 abusive tweets every hour for 12 hours to Caroline Criado-Perez after she successfully lobbied for replacing Charles Darwin on the ten-pound note starting in 2017.

It wasn’t enough for these men that the picture of World War II prime minister Winston Churchill will replace the face of 19th-century social reformer Elizabeth Fry on the five-pound note beginning in 2016. Without the addition of Jane Austen, the only woman on Britain’s money would be Queen Elizabeth II, whose face is on every British coin and banknote.

A Twitter representative, Mark Luckie, waited four days to talk with her about the abuse, temporarily blocking her attempted communication with him. Publicity connected the past seven days of threats and abuse has required police and politicians to take notice of the abuse toward Criado-Perez and Labor MP Stella Creasy, who came out in Criado-Perez’s support.

If you’re still smoking, you might be interested in knowing that cigarette companies have switched to clay in their filters, the same substance used in kitty litter. A dozen tobacco companies have avoided as much as $1.1 billion in taxes by making their cigarettes heavier with this filler filler, exempting their product from a 2,653 percent increase in federal excise tax  on non-”large cigar” tobacco products. Taxes for a rolled tobacco product weighing at least three pounds per 1,000 increased only 155 percent. Treasury Department spokesman Thomas Hogue said, “If you meet the definition of a large cigar, then you’re a large cigar.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently introduced legislation to equalize the tax structure that could make $3.6 billion in new taxes over 10 years.

Changing from kitty litter cigarettes to electronic ones won’t make people safer. Sales are rising for these alternatives, but no one knows the health problem because they aren’t regulated. The primary byproduct of electronic cigarettes is definitely not a “harmless water vapor,” as manufacturers claim.  In Scientific American, Stanton Glantz noted that the smoker inhales a collection of dangerous substances including acetaldehyde, nickel and cadmium. With every puff, both smokers and the people near them inhale formaldehyde, toluene, and nicotine.

The FDA tried to ban imports of electronic cigarettes from China by declaring them “unapproved drug/device combination products” but lost in court. Manufacturers maintain that these are healthy alternatives to cigarettes in the same way that tobacco companies used to swear that cigarettes were also “healthy.”

China also wants to buy Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor and hog producer. Shuanghui International is willing to pay $4.7 billion. In 2011, it was discovered that some Shuanghui products contained a hazardous and banned chemical used to make meat leaner. Smithfield president Larry Pope said that there wouldn’t be any problems, and it would bring more jobs to the United States. Other food safety issues in China have included rat meat passed off as pork and thousands of pig carcasses floating on a river. Smithfield already uses an additive, banned in China and Russia, to bulk up animals with muscle instead of far, without increasing the amount of feed.

People have known for decades about the dangers of lead in paint, but Sherman-Williams is being sued because it knew over a century ago that the company knowingly poisoned people. Ten California cities and counties are seeking $1 billion from the company to strip the leaded paint that remains on millions of residences throughout the state. The United States banned lead paint for residential use in 1978, several decades after other countries forbade its use. Once thought to be more dangerous for children, new research finds that lead effects for adults may be worse, causing dangers from increased blood pressure and stroke.

Pepsi may also be in trouble after it was discovered that the caramel coloring in drinks contains high levels of a probable carcinogen. Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola were told to adjust their formulas to avoid a cancer warning label in California. Coke products no longer tested positive in May for the chemical, but Pepsi products outside California still contain it. Pepsi said that the chemical won’t be removed from its drinks until February 2014 but gave no timeline for world-wide distribution. FDA said that a person would have to drink 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses used in rodents to cause cancer, but California has still added 4-Mel to its list of carcinogens.

Detroit is so broke that it’s threatening to sell all its art in the museums and not pay contract pensions. No schools, no roads, no utilities, no services. But it is spending almost one-half billion dollars on a new hockey arena. That’s what you get with an “emergency financial manager” appointed by the Republican governor.

North Carolina

North Carolina has finished its hate-filled legislation, and Gov. Pat McCrory has duly signed all the hateful bills, but publicity about them hasn’t ended. The latest story started with a small group of women going to McCrory’s mansion to protest the most recent anti-abortion bill  that he had promised not to sign—and then did. at McCrory’s mansion.  Various French princesses have been credited with the statement, “Let them eat cake,” when referring to peasants suffering from famine. McCrory changed the term “cake” to “cookies” when he delivered a plate of chocolate-chip cookies to the protesters. Four security guards stopped traffic in the street, and McCrory walked to the middle and pointed at one of the women. She walked up to him, and he handed the plate of cookies, saying, “These are for you. God bless you, God bless you, God bless you.”

McCrory wouldn’t talk to the protesters; he just handed over the plate after he lied to them and took away their constitutional right to choose reproductive health care. The crowd responded by chanting, ”Hey Pat, that was rude. You wouldn’t give cookies to a dude.” McCrory said that the critics exaggerated the impact of the law that closes 15 out of 16 clinics that provide abortion and bars state residents from paying for the coverage through state health exchanges. [Photo by Corey Lowenstein @ News Observer]

Cookies…-no-thanks

Cumulus Media, the second-largest owner and operator of AM and FM radio stations in America, will not be renewing its contracts with both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on its 40 channels that have hundreds of radio stations. Although they may have already signed with rival syndicate WOR, the future of right-wing radio may be in jeopardy. The majority of its listeners, primarily white, are disappearing because most of its older demographic. Limbaugh blamed the ad buyers, saying that they are Limbaugh recently acknowledged difficulty selling ads, complaining ad buyers are “are young women fresh out of college, liberal feminists who hate conservatism.” For months, Cumulus has been telling investors that Limbaugh is costing the company millions of dollars in lost advertizing.

If your electricity bills going up, it might be because of banks rigging the market. This week, the Federal Regulatory Commission fined JP Morgan Chase $410 million fine, following a penalty of almost $500 million against the British bank Barclay two weeks ago. JP Morgan agreed to pay a civil penalty of $285 million and return $125 million in wrongful profits without either admitting or denying its guilt in using energy traders to fix prices. The situation isn’t unique: financial markets are controlling market forces in oil, currency exchanges, and hard commodities from precious metals to aluminum. Industry deregulation in the 1990s permitted banks to directly deal in physical commodity markets instead of being limited to financial products based on commodity prices.

May 11, 2013

Take Action for Mother’s Day

As I write my blog almost daily, I wonder how I can improve the dire situation that the people of the United States suffer. I sign tons of petitions, donate to causes, write occasional letters to the newspaper, talk politics with people, attend meetings, and, in the past, marched in protests in our small town.

Over a year ago, I cheered on the fighters in Wisconsin who tried to protect their unions and mourned their losses, especially the return of Gov. Scott Walker to his post despite his illegal actions. After that, conservatives popped up everywhere like superbugs that spread throughout hospitals, sickening everyone who objects to the GOP’s goal of eradicating the middle class.

Occupy Wall Street—and many other places—gave some hope, but people can live in a park only so long. Across the country now, however, people are acting in opposition to legislation and corporations to create move toward a better world.

Students in NYC occupying Cooper Union are demanding that their education remain free. And spare me the conservative attitude that students should pay a fortune for their education. If we want a skilled workforce, we need to educate them like countries around the world including Europe and the Middle East do.  Students in Philadelphia walked out in protest of budget cuts that are cheapening their education. Chicago students and teachers are protesting against the closing of schools that define their communities.

A massive student-led movement over 400 campuses is pressuring university administrations to divest their school endowments from the fossil fuel industry, with growing success at the Rhode Island School of Design. In Madison (WI) students occupied their chancellor’s office demanding the school cut their contract with a food vendor known for willfully abusing its employees.

Fast food workers have been on strike in St. Louis, demanding their employers treat them like human beings and pay them a living wage.

This weekend, activists in Baltimore are celebrating the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign by marching the 150 miles to Washington to protest the cruel, intertwined systems of mass incarceration, police brutality, and private prisons.

On May 25, people in over 30 countries will participate in the March against Monsanto, showing their opposition to the corporation that has poisoned food supplies, bribed politicians to keep quiet about their crimes, and caused an epidemic of poverty and suicide among thousands of farmers around the world.

In North Carolina, doctors, preachers, lawyers, raging grannies, students, and others are willing to be arrested as they protest the GOP control of the entire state government that has attacked voters’ rights, health care policies, welfare management, and public education. Their weekly gatherings at the state legislature for “Moral Mondays” has resulted in 50 arrests, but they’re not stopping.

Dr. Charles Dr. van der Horst, 61, was arrested during his protest against the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid with federal funding, limiting health care access for almost one-half million people. He also opposes legislation which requires photo ID to vote and decreases the number of days in voting.  Van der Horst also fights legislation from people who claim to be “pro-life” who then cut early childhood education programs and access to Medicare.

Rev. William Barber, head of the state chapter of the NAACP, said that this fight will move to the courts and raise money for candidates and awareness about the legislators’ actions. He said they had already talked to legislators and the governor who ignored them. Barber was also part of the protests in Wake County (NC), arrested for refusing to leave school property, when he acted with dissenters against the GOP-controlled return to school segregation.

North Carolina’s latest outrageous bill is to mandate fiction to be taught to seventh graders as fact. The past week, the state Senate Health Committee passed a bill requiring all these students be taught that abortion is one of significant risk factors causing a woman to have pre-mature deliveries later in life. An impressive set of health organizations agree that this is not true.

Another protest movement garnering success is boycotting Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers. Within the year starting with Limbaugh’s statements about Sandra Fluke being a “slut,” the vast majority of Cumulus radio network advertisers have left Limbaugh, and the company has lost $5.5 million. Forty-eight out of 50 major network advertisers have excluded not only Sean Hannity but also Limbaugh.

The courts may also take care of his hate speech. According to Dick Armey, former chair of Freedomworks, that organization and Heritage Foundation have been paying Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to promote their right-wing agendas. Yes, it’s free speech, but FCC rules mandate that the recipients of the money make this public:

“Any broadcast station employee who has accepted or agreed to accept payment for the airing of program material, and the person making or promising to make the payment, must disclose this information to the station prior to the airing of the program.”

The boycott continues. Here is a petition that you can sign.

You can also help stop the Koch brothers from buying the Tribune newspaper group. After extensive lobbying and messaging in the media, the Koch brothers have decided to go directly to the newspapers to publish their message of taking over all the country’s net wealth and eradicating the middle class. The Tribune papers include eight major publications in the United States: the Los Angeles Times, the Allentown Daily Call, the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel, the Baltimore Sun, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, the Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Hoy, the nation’s second-largest Spanish-language paper.

The Koch brothers bankrolled Scott Walker’s anti-union movement in Wisconsin and went on to take aim at public unions, lobbying, and pensions across the country, spending $4 million in California alone to restrict unions’ political activity. Two major Tribune stakeholders are the investment management firms managing billions of dollars in public pension funds. If Koch buys the Tribune group, public employees will be forced to support their anti-union attacks.

So eager to purchase themselves several of the nation’s major newspapers, the Koch brothers are allegedly prepared to submit a bid of $1 billion over the current value of $600 million to $700 million. Conservatives are already mentally watching the evacuation of journalists: Chicago Tribune’s Cal Thomas is waxing ecstatic over the day when his office is rid of the “liberal quitters” and full of “unbiased” people like him. Thomas wrote that the Koch brothers could provide “ideologically balanced coverage”—sort of like Fox News.

Public sector employees have some control over the purchase. They can require their investment managers to choose between them or the Koch brothers. You can help keep the eight newspapers more independent from right-wing ideology by signing this petition or searching the Internet for others.

Fortunately, people in the Congress like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continue to fight against corporations. We need to support them. And we can do this by celebrating Mother’s Day tomorrow, not with the commercial, corporation-driven belief that it’s a day for eating out and flowers but with its original meaning.

After the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” issued a proclamation asking women to form peaceful resolutions to international conflicts and avoid war. Most casualties of wars, whether the current ones in the Middle East and the ones imposed by conservatives and corporations, are women and children.

In her proclamation, Howe wrote, “We will not have urgent questions decided by irrelevant agencies.” We need to stop “irrelevant agencies” from undermining our quality of life.

September 9, 2012

The War on Women Continues

What do the Republicans think of women? Here are some fine examples of how little some men treasure the “fairer sex.”

Republican candidate Tom Smith of Pennsylvania, running for the House this fall, told an interviewer that having an unmarried pregnant daughter is the equivalent of having a daughter raped. Paul Ryan, running for the second highest office in the country said that rape and incest are just another “method of contraception.” This is after he refuted Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) explanation of “legitimate rape.”

After Caroline Kennedy spoke at the DNC convention about the new restrictions on women’s rights, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly criticized her speech and said: “I don’t see any women’s rights under assault at all. I don’t see it.” Karl Rove, his guest, claimed, “No one is seriously talking about ending abortion.” Obviously Rove had not read the 2012 GOP platform passed a week earlier.

One GOP goal, stated in their platform and by both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, is defunding Planned Parenthood. Shelby County (TN) did just that: in November 2011, officials took away the $397,000 in state funding for health screenings, STD tests, and birth control and gave it to Christ Community Health Services (CCHS), a religious organization that refuses to provide abortions or refer women to other organization providing them. CCHS does not offer emergency contraception, sometimes called the day-after pill, despite no proof that these cause abortions. They are supposedly trying to create more “crisis pregnancy clinics” that offer “counselors who can discuss adoption and other life-affirming options” with women. Obviously, there is not information about abortion at these clinics.

During the year between July 2011 and June 2012, CCHS failed to use over $500,000 of the $1.3 million grant it received. In early 2012, the health services averaged 51 Title X visits per month, compared with Planned Parenthood’s 841 visits in August 2011 before they lost the funding. Yvonne Madlock, director of the county health department, justified the drop by how busy CCHS was in its transitioning. At the same time, women’s services dropped 93 percent because the county failed to fund Planned Parenthood.

Trying to keep women pregnant is the goal of Quiverfull, a Christian organization that pushes the idea that women’s purpose on Earth is to conceive and bear sons; i.e., “arrows” for God’s army. Stars of TLC’s 19 and Counting, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, are models for this group. Citing several Biblical passages, Mary Price, leader of the organization, explains in her book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality  that sex for women is unnatural and causes men “to abandon the natural sexual use of the women and turn to homosexuality.”

When single-mother Vyckie Garrison gave up the Quiverfull movement after seven children, she started a blog to explain the problems with what she calls a cult. It goes much farther than just the abuse of women who are encouraged to lose their health in bearing children and provides documentation for the Quivers’ belief that the primary goal of a parent is to subdue the will of their children.

Women’s buy-in to the anti-women movement in the country can be truly horrifying. Fox News co-host Andrea Tantaros said that “no woman should aspire to be” the women’s rights activist and former Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called a slut because she had advocated that birth control be covered by health insurance plans. Tantaros continued, “She claims to be this smart, successful woman and she can’t afford $9 birth control?” When guest co-host Juan Williams defended Fluke because she was a student, Tantaros replied. “She’s a lazy student. She won’t get a job and pay for her own bills.” Fluke was actually testifying on behalf of a lesbian friend who couldn’t afford the oral contraception she needed to prevent ovarian cysts from forming when her university refused to pay for the medication on religious grounds.

Another example comes from Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R-WI) who was initially horrified at Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) classification of rape as “abhorrent, insulting” and “disgusting.” She went so far as to say, “Rape is a rape. I don’t know how you can categorize it, and it’s disgusting that Todd Akin would have tried to categorize it.” That was before the interviewer told her that her own state’s GOP representative, Paul Ryan, had co-sponsored a bill with Akin to categorize some rapes as “forcible.”  She made a 180-degree turn: “Well, I think there is a way to have a more forcible rape, the same way there are different types of assault.”

Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) showed her disdain for raped and battered women when she called them “distractions” that represent only a “small portion” of South Carolina’s population. When vetoing critical funding for programs working to prevent domestic abuse and rape, she said, “It is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused. Overall, these special add-on lines distract from the agency’s broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health.”

Another dishonest reaction came from the discussion of the GOP platform language that denies all abortions to all women even in the cases of rape, incest, and the women’s health. Several high-ranking Republicans have denied that the platform states this. Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) called the prevention of abortion a “detail” to be left up to states and Congress. On ABC’s This Week, he said, “The party didn’t make any judgment on that. It’s a general proposition to say we support human life.”

The GOP platform actually endorses a Human Life Amendment “to make clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to all unborn children.” That means all abortions would be unconstitutional. When McDonnell appeared on the program, Romney stated that there would be exceptions for rape, incest, and the woman’s life. The next week he dropped rape and incest, and now he supports a ban on all abortions.

The icing on the cake comes from Jacqueline Hatch, an Arizona judge appointed by Republican governor Jan Brewer, when she sentenced a police officer who molested a woman in Flagstaff. Robb Gary Evans drove drunk to a bar, showed his badge to avoid paying a cover charge, and then ran his hand up a woman’s skirt over her genitals. Fired from the police force after an internal investigation, Evans was also convicted by a jury of sexual abuse, a felony with a maximum sentence of 30 months in prison. The trial judge gave him probation and 100 hours of community service. Evans is not required to register as a sex offender.

Hatch said she didn’t blame the victim but she did say that bad things can happen in bars. “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said. “I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it. You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.” Hatch said that her mother used to say, “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”

Hatch was not the only person who criticized the victim, a Flagstaff professional. Members of the community accused her of ruining the defendant’s life. “These people put their lives on the line every day,” Evan’s former partner said to the judge. “I hope you’ll be lenient on him. To me, this is one way we can give a little back to those in law enforcement who give so much to us everyday.”

“I don’t necessarily agree with the way this case got to be here,” former Flagstaff Police Lt. Randy Weems told the judge.

“When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill,” Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show in July. “Because that’s when votes started being cast with emotion and maternal instincts that government ought to reflect.”

Republicans are now trying to dodge the growing opposition to the GOP’s control of people through banning marriage equality and women’s reproductive rights while creating a greater schism between the wealthy and the rest of the nation’s citizens. Denigrating concerns in this area through such sneering terms as “distraction” and “emotional issues,” they have generated a war against not only half the people in this country but also the poor and the minorities. The angrier the conservatives become, the more they will fail.

September 6, 2012

Democratic Convention 2012 – Day Two, Extraordinary

Topping the first day of the Democratic convention was difficult, but the second day  displayed as much–if not more– electricity with non-stop speakers throughout the evening, capped by a 48-minute speech from former President Bill Clinton.

Many of the convention speakers, in contrast to those at the GOP convention last week, have been non-politicians. For example, three workers from Bain-controlled companies talked about problems of Mitt Romney’s leadership. Randy Johnson began by describing how Bain bought his company in 1994 and fired hundreds of employees without any warning. “They rushed in security guards to walk us out of our plant. We weren’t even allowed to take our personal items.”

Cindy Hewitt, a worker at Dade Behring, told how Bain drop her company, an important part of the community, was driven into bankruptcy, destroying 850 jobs.

David Foster, worker at a steel mill said, “When Romney and Bain took over the mill, they loaded it up with millions in debt, and within months, they used some of that borrowed money to pay themselves millions. Within a decade, the debt kept growing and was so large the company was forced into bankruptcy. They fired 750 steelworkers while they pocketed $12 million in profit. A steelworker at GST Steel would have had to work 240 years to make $12 million.”

Sister Simone Campbell, who led the “Nuns on the Bus” tour for social justice this past summer, used her seven-minute speech to decry Paul Ryan’s budget: “Paul Ryan claims this budget reflects the principles of our shared faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”

Sandra Fluke, the activist who has fought for contraception from insurance companies and called a slut and worse by Rush Limbaugh, talked about the alternate futures, depending on who is elected as president. ”Six months from now, we’ll all be living in one or the other. But only one. A country where our president either has our back or turns his back; a country that honors our foremothers by moving us forward, or one that forces our generation to re-fight the battles they already won; a country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, or one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) said, “My friend Paul Ryan talks about fiscal responsibility but voted to put two wars on a credit card. He voted to spend trillions of dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. He voted for a prescription drug benefit with no plan to pay for it. He abandoned the bipartisan principle that we must pay for what we buy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) said that a vote for Democrats in the November election is a vote to preserve Medicare and Social Security and a vote in favor of women.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s claims that President Barack Obama is weak on Israel make “no sense” and are “ludicrous.” Earlier in the day when during an MSNBC interview, she said, “I think we do not know what Gov. Romney’s position on national security is, frankly. He has advisers that are some neocons, some of the people that brought you the previous policies under the [President George W.] Bush administration and he barely talked about foreign policy in his speech.”

Elizabeth Warren, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, talked about how “the [financial] system is rigged” but that President Obama is working to give everyone a chance at a “level playing field.” She described the GOP approach to governing in this statement:  “I’ve got mine; the rest of you are on your own.” Aiming at the GOP, Warren said, “Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do! They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends. After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said, ‘Corporations are people.’” She finished her speech by quoting the Bible: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”–Matthew 25:40.

Bill Clinton was the highlight of the evening when he shredded all the arguments from the GOP convention speakers about President Obama’s four years. “He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for the innovators.”

In answer to the objections that life is not better under this president, Clinton said, “Are we where we want to be? No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office with an economy in free-fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is yes.” He continued, “President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did,” he said. “No president–not me or any of my predecessors–could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”

Andrea Mitchell said, “As a political document, this speech was extraordinary,” providing an “explanation of all of the policy points.” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed GOP nominee John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said, “I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do [what Clinton did tonight].”

Blogger Michael Hayne said, “In short, the 42nd President of the United States beautifully encapsulated how Obama has consistently extended the olive branch to Republicans and they have proudly taken that branch, ripped it up into a million pieces, stomped it into the sand and buried their heads with it so that the economic worsened and they could easily say ‘vote Republican’ in 2012.”

Unlike Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s speeches in Tampa, Clinton’s speech was on policy and gave specifics in amazing detail, so much that there isn’t enough room for it here. Even more amazing, no matter how much FactCheck.org and USA Today scoured the multitude of facts that Clinton provided in his speech, the two organizations could not find anything false. This is far different from their investigation of Ryan’s and Romney’s speeches when they had trouble finding anything true.

Asides: The reading level for Michelle Obama’s speech was Grade 12; Ann Romney’s speech was seven grades below. [Note: Is this what each person thinks of her political party’s education?]

Clinton said, “Though I often disagree with Republicans,” he said, “I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.” Ann Coulter’s tweets show how vicious the far right is:

“Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage…”

“To get Bill Clinton to speak at the convention, Obama had to agree to carry his bags.”

In another hateful spate, Rush Limbaugh claimed that President Obama isn’t actually black because he lacks any slave ancestry. Not that it matters, but one of the president’s ancestors is the first documented slave, John Punch, according the The New York Times. 

The ADP National Jobs Report reported the addition of 201,000 private-sector jobs in the month of August, almost 50 percent more than the estimated increase of 140,000 jobs. It also revises the number of jobs added in July up to 173,000 from 163,000. In addition, the Department of Labor’s weekly report today showed the number of new claims for state unemployment benefits had fallen by 12,000 when Wall Street had expected only 1,000.

Things are looking better!

July 17, 2012

Republican Politicians Attack Obama

The Mitt Romney campaign is on the ropes and going crazy. The most recent issue is not just a gaffe; it’s a horrible mistake that won’t go away. No one who watches television can have missed the whole whooplaw about Romney’s refusal to release more than the past two years of income tax returns and his attempt to explain that he quit Bain Capital before the company sent jobs to China—except for those jobs in which they cut up aborted fetuses and burned them. I chuckle every time I hear Romney say, “I’ve put out as much as I’ve put out.”

George Will got it right when he said, “The cost of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, [Romney] must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.”  He did give a typical conservative answer about making sure that he could hide everything: “I do not know why, given that Mitt Romney knew the day that [John] McCain lost in 2008 that he was going to run for president again that he didn’t get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest.” Will, by the way, is the staunch Republican pundit who stole Jimmy Carter’s questions before the 1980 debate and gave them to his opponent, Ronald Reagan.

The feeding frenzy isn’t going away, despite all the attempts by Romney’s supporters to divert the discussion. Speculation has run rampant through the media. Did he not pay taxes? Or did he make even more money from Bain than we realize?  Or did he have to pay fines? Or did he have even more offshore tax dodges than the ones in Bermuda, the Caymans, and the Swiss bank account? Or would the tax returns  show deductions from “controversial charities” that would turn off his potential voters?

The issue of Bain’s offshoring by sending jobs from its purchased companies to China has paled by comparison, but it’s equally as perplexing. Romney spent three weeks saying that there was nothing wrong with doing this until he calculated the problems from admitting it and told everyone who would listen that he wasn’t at Bain at the time that this happened. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Ed Gillespie said that Romney decided to “retroactively retire” for the previous years in 2002, not explaining why Romney took money for working while retired. And even now, Romney doesn’t criticize offshoring; he just says that he didn’t do it.

The Olympics situation may add to Romney’s problems. When he was asked how he felt about the clothing for United States’ participants being made in China, he said, “No comment.” Possibly he wanted the entire question to go away because the clothing for the 2002 Winter Olympics torchbearers, the Olympics administered by Romney, were made in Burma, until last year a brutally military regime.

The Republican forces are gathering to protect Romney by attacking President Obama. After the president’s speech talking about how the United States has accomplished important things by working together to build an infrastructure, John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire said Obama’s recent defense of public infrastructure shows he “doesn’t understand how America works.” Later Sununu said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

Another distortion of President Obama’s speech came from his statement that “U.S. policymakers are lazy in creating jobs.” True, but the Republicans are now running television ads that claim the president said, “Americans are lazy.”

Sununu may have gotten more talking points from Rush Limbaugh. “He [Obama] has no idea how the American system functions,” Sununu said on Fox News. “And we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent … another set of years in Indonesia.”

Limbaugh said Romney should “get down and dirty with Obama” and say:

“Look, pal, when I was out creating jobs, investing in businesses, and growing this economy, you were at Columbia smoking weed and snorting coke. You write about it in your book. You talk about how you got into Columbia and the Harvard Law Review, and you didn’t have to do anything. That’s what was great about it to you! You loved getting into Columbia ’cause all you had to do was go to class, get your grades, and smoke a little weed! Well, I was out building the country when you were doing that.”

I can’t understand what influenced Sununu to accuse President Obama of outsourcing “a major portion of the U.S. space program to the Russians.” FactCheck declared this statement false and explained that George W. Bush set NASA on a path eight years ago to retire the Space Shuttle and rely on the Russians for space travel. It was under President Obama’s charge that the Space Shuttle program ended, but it was George W. Bush who retired the shuttle because the White House refused to give NASA the authority and funds to replace it.

Bush directed NASA to retire the shuttle in 2010 to coincide with the scheduled completion of the space station as part of his plan for NASA that also called for the agency “to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014,” with the goal of reaching the moon in 2020 and using it as a base for future trips to Mars.

In a 2007 speech at Georgetown University, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the U.S. may have “no alternative other than to use Soyuz [Russian space craft] for crew transport and rescue.” Bush signed a bill on Sept. 30, 2008, so that Russians would provide transportation to the space station. U.S. astronauts also went to the space station aboard the Soyuz in 2003 after the Columbia disaster caused a suspension of the shuttle program for two years and Edward Lu used Russian transportation. If this is outsourcing, Sununu should have kept quiet because it’s the Republican president who offshored the NASA program.

Even sometimes-reasonable Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, has joined the irrational chorus. Because Republican governors in Utah and Nevada asked the Obama administration for flexibility in the welfare reform law that required adults to either work or participate in a work training program, the president granted flexibility to satisfy their needs. On a voluntary basis, states can now “experiment with ways to improve the number of people making the jump from government assistance to jobs.” On Fox and Friends, Huckabee said:

“It’s basically just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to the government, from the government to people who become beneficiaries of the government, because that way the government can own these people. It is a trap, and it is like the roach motel. Once you get in, but you never get out.”

It’s not the first time that conservatives have compared people needing the safety net to animals. Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, the GOP candidate for Arizona’s District 3, put the following on her website before she hastily removed it.

“The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is actually proud of the fact it is distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to ‘Please Do Not Feed The Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves. This ends today’s lesson.”

Arizona is one of the top two states with food insecure (aka hungry) children; in Arizona 29 percent of the children go to bed hungry each night.

Another Republican disaster today is the release of the first book from the George W. Bush Institute, The 4 Percent Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs.  James K. Glassman, executive director of the Bush Institute, said the book states the country can achieve a 4 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by extending the Bush-era tax cuts, broadening the tax base by getting rid of special exemptions and loopholes, taxing consumption rather than income, and lowering corporate taxes. With GDP being the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period, it is often considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living.

During the reign of George W. Bush, who wrote the forward for The 4 Percent Solution, the GDP averaged just over 2.3 percent using the ideas promoted in the Bush Institute’s book. Because of the over 30% increase in imports during that time, business investment actually declined relative to GDP despite all the Bush tax breaks. Residential investment, which was almost 35% higher in 2005 than it was in 2000, plummeted to less than 83% of its 2000 level by 2008.

Republicans repeatedly say that President Obama’s policies are ruining the nation. He hasn’t had a chance to put his policies into effect. It’s the conservative Republicans’ policies that keep the GDP from growing as Republicans refuse to provide revenue and send jobs out of the country.

March 23, 2012

Anti-Choice People Get Crazier

How crazy can anti-choice people become? Just when you think you’ve seen it all ….

Members of an anti-choice group performed an exorcism outside a women’s clinic in Ohio last Sunday. Priests got permission from the Rev. Steve J. Angi, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, to perform the “exorcism of locality,” designed to drive evil out of a place, rather than out of a person. Participants read the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, that states, “Seize the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the devil and Satan, bind him and cast him into the bottomless pit, that he may no longer seduce the nations.”

While the Catholics are exorcising “locality,” Republican legislators are becoming more and more outrageous. In Arizona Rep. Terri Proud wants a bill to force women witness an abortion before they can have the procedure. An Alaskan bill requires women who opt for abortions to prove in writing that the fetuses’ fathers approve of the procedures.

To keep women from having abortions, both Arizona and Kansas are considering bills giving women’s doctors the legal right to lie about health issues regarding both the pregnant women’s and the fetuses’ health. In a 20-9 vote, the Arizona Senate approved a bill, sponsored by Nancy Barto, that prevents lawsuits if doctors fail to inform women of prenatal problems. The Kansas bill goes further, permitting doctors to outright lie outright if they discover a medical condition that could affect a pregnant women or fetus. Nine other states already have “wrongful birth” laws on their books allowing doctors to withhold information from pregnant women.

Idaho State Sen. Chuck Winder clearly states the arrogant attitude that many Republican legislators have toward women. While discussing his mandatory ultrasound bill, he said, “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

Gov. Rick Perry (TX) stated that he can take money from Planned Parenthood because the Tenth Amendment allows him to do anything with federal money that he wants. Between the withdrawal of state and federal funds from Planned Parenthood, over 300,000 Texas women in poverty can no longer receive health care. Texas also has a 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirements for abortions. The Texas Observer has published a story about the pain that these laws cause for women carrying fetuses with irreversible medical conditions, an article that every Republican should be required to read.

Utah’s governor signed the bill that demands a 72-hour waiting period before women can get abortions. The rationale behind lengthy waits seems to be that women will change their minds if given enough time … or perhaps not meet the short window of time during which women can get abortions.

The trend against women, however, seems to be slightly reversing. Tennessee is thinking about not requiring the publication of the names of doctors’ who perform abortions although the women’s identity could still be obvious. The change comes from the only physician in the legislature, a Republican who wants to protect at least doctors if not women.

The Idaho House is backing off forced ultrasounds after the Senate passed the bill 23-12 with five Republicans voting against it. The cancellation of a House committee hearing gives the impression that the bill may have died. After the New Hampshire House passed a bill that would force doctors to lie to their patients by telling them legislature-specified statements that abortions give higher risks for breast cancer, legislators decided to take the bill back to committee so that it could be reconsidered. Abortions do NOT give a higher risk of breast cancer.

Arizona’s bill requiring women to tell their employees why they want contraception has already passed the House, but it’s being amended by its sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, who pulled it from the Senate Rules Committee. The intent to return to committee is to work on amendments—what kind wasn’t disclosed. Gov. Jan Brewer said she was concerned that women might be “uncomfortable” with the bill.

Utah governor Gary Herbert vetoed a bill banning public schools from teaching about contraception in health education classes.

Women are still fighting back. Project TMI is still posting on legislators’ Facebook pages across the nation.

The National Organization for Women (NOW), which has been almost invisible in the past few years, has tackled the bust of Rush Limbaugh being sculpted for the Missouri state capitol. The state chapter’s program, “Flush Rush,” has sent hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to Steven Tilley, the state House Speaker responsible for inducting Limbaugh in the Hall of Famous Missourians. Tilley’s justification for keeping Limbaugh in the capitol is that the Hall is “not called the Hall of Universally Loved Missourians. We’ve inducted people like John Ashcroft, Warren Hearnes, and Harry Truman. They certainly had their detractors.” Apparently at least one Missouri Republican compares Limbaugh to Harry Truman.

Because of its opposition to Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is losing affiliate officers and events. Another group—one that’s pro-choice and spends more of its funding helping women prevent breast cancer—would better suited to take its place.

Conservative legislators are also more reluctant to fight in other areas such as same-sex marriage. Two-thirds of the New Hampshire House voted to keep its 2007 same-sex marriage law in a 211 to 116 vote. Republicans hold 189 seats in the House; they could easily have passed the bill.

Even with this trend, the country trends farther and farther to the right. There must a tipping point somewhere!

March 12, 2012

Language Strengthens Brains, Both Conservative and Progressive

Today begins International Brain Awareness Day, and George Lakoff’s article in today’s Huffington Post is an apt offering to observe this annual commemoration of  intelligence. Author of The Political Mind, Moral Politics, Don’t Think of an Elephant!, Lakoff writes about the ways that Republicans pound conservative ideas into people to guarantee a radically conservative future for the country.

Progressives have ridiculed the possibility that Rick Santorum—or even Newt Gingrich—could possibly be the Republican presidential nominee, let alone get elected. Bill Maher is one of those on the left who thinks that we should worry about a Republican being elected this fall. History has proved his theory right with both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush sitting in the U.S. president’s seat after many voters thought this could not happen. Both men changed the country for the worse, despite the fact that neither one of them was as radical as the current gaggle of conservative candidates.

How did they get elected? Repetition. According to Lakoff, repeated language strengthens the brain circuitry. If that language is conservative, then it strengthens the conservative brain circuitry. The conservative language is not limited to just the presidential campaign; it influences elections from school boards on up to Congress. Even negating conservative language activates that characterizes conservative values.

Lakoff writes that conservative ideals are reinforced in everyone, including progressives, by repeating myths before explaining why they are wrong. He suggests that progressives need to repeat—and repeat—liberal moral values and policies to activate the progressive part of the brain. According to Lakoff, morality beats policy. After President Obama gained majority support for his heath care plan, conservatives attacked “Obamacare” on moral grounds. They never mentioned the provisions of the act because people wanted what the health care act provided. Instead conservatives claimed that the health care act violated the moral principles of “freedom” (“government takeover”) and “life” (“death panels”). They repeated these two words over and over and over, convincing millions of people that they should fight the entire health care plan.

Progressive moral values are empathy and responsibility, both for oneself and others, leading to the need for government to have certain moral obligations: providing protection and empowerment for everyone equally. For progressives, the public is important: public infrastructure (roads, buildings, sewers), public education, public health, etc. Private businesses cannot prosper without these public provisions; thus the private depends on the public. These liberal moral values are also found in families: parents have equal authority with empathy for each other and their children. Self-responsibility and responsibility for well-being of other family members means open communication, transparency about family rules, shared decision-making, and need-based fairness.

Conversely, the ideal conservative family is based on a strict father who is the natural leader of the family, who is assumed to know right from wrong, whose authority is absolute and unchallengeable, who is masculine and makes decisions about reproduction, and who sets the rules–in short, the Decider. Their morality requires that children to be taught right from wrong through strict discipline. These family beliefs extend to conservative morality of free markets. Poverty comes from not being fiscally disciplined; poor people deserve poverty because they lack discipline.

In government, conservative moral beliefs require conservative religion with a strict father God; a view of the market as Decider with no external authority over the market from government, unions, or the courts; and strictness in other institutions, like education, prisons, businesses, sports teams, romantic relationships, and the world community. According to conservative belief, control over reproduction ought to be in the hands of male authorities. For conservatives, democracy is about the freedom to seek one’s own self-interest with minimal or no commitment to the interests of others. Brains that absorb these conservative moral values then vote against their personal interests.

Made readily available through television and the Internet, the repetition of language expressing conservative values leads to more and more working people becoming political and accepting those values in their politics. When Democrats do not provide progressive moral messaging, repeated over and over, conservative populism will expand. Ridiculing conservative language reinforces it in the brains.

Lakoff uses the following examples to show how conservatives rationalize their moral values:

  • The strict father determines what happens in the family, including reproduction. Thus reproduction is the province of male authority.
  • The strict father does not condone moral weakness and self-indulgence without moral consequences. Sex without reproductive consequences is thus seen as immoral.
  • If the nation supports birth control for unmarried women, then the nation supports immoral behavior.
  • The conservative stress on individual responsibility means that you and no one else should have to pay for your birth control–not your employer, your HMO, or the taxpayers.
  • Having to pay for your birth control also has a metaphorical religious value–paying for your sins.

If no one else should have to pay for contraception, the next step is that no one else should have to pay for any health care, and the step after that is that no one else should be forced to pay for anyone else. It’s the Santorum approach: no public education, safety nets, parks, or any public institutions or services.

Rush Limbaugh’s “apology” fits with the conservative moral value system. Although he seemed to apologize for using two words, slut and prostitute, to describe Sandra Fluke, he didn’t apologize for having attacked her because she supported birth control. It might be noted, however, that his apology, for the sole purpose of regaining his advertisers, may have failed in that arena. Thus far he has lost almost 100 advertisers with most of them now refusing to advertise on any conservative media.

Clear Channel, which owns 850 radio stations in the country and reaches 190 million listeners, also owns Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates the radio shows of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and others. Clear Channel also controls other conservative talk radio hosts such as Michael Savage and Mark Levin. Bain Capital is a primary owner of Clear Channel. Although Mitt Romney no longer runs Bain Capital, he makes millions dollars from Clear Channel. This parent company auditions and hires actors to call radio shows as “listeners” to provide planned content through their stories and “opinions” so that the conservative message is clear and pervasive.

Lakoff also wrote, “All moral logic in politics, whether progressive or conservative, is based on metaphorical thought processes, applying family moral values to political moral values. Republicans understand this and Santorum carries it out masterfully for the benefit of all conservative Republican office seekers at all levels, today and in the future. The Santorum Strategy does not end with this election. It is part of a permanent campaign that has been going on since the Gingrich revolution of 1994, and will continue into the indefinite future.”

A graph covering the past 30 years shows the conservative success in controlling the brain circuitry of U.S. voters. Democrats have barely edged towards the left during that time while both moderate and partisan House Republicans have veered way off to the extreme right. For instance, the partisan Republican (the “90% Republican”) in 2011 hovered near the absolute threshold of the radical right. In comparison, the partisan Democrat (the “90% Democrat”) was far from his/her ideological extreme, having only made a negligible move to the left. Even more critical is that a moderate Republican in 2011 (the “10% Republican”) was not really moderate anymore, having moved so far to the right that he/she was nearly as factional as the Democrat’s partisan member.

Lakoff cautions Democrats, who may assume that the presidential campaign concerns only this year and that birth control is only about birth control, to not to make that mistake. Conservatives are in the fight for the long haul, working toward a fundamentalist Christian theocracy and succeeding in the people who they promote for Congress. That’s why they spend all their times lying about the Democrats–the brain circuitry.

Sad to say, tomorrow’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi will definitely activate the conservative part of the brain.

March 7, 2012

Limbaugh Flap Continues

The Republicans are beginning to figure out that the birth control issue will be huge in the fall election, especially after Rush Limbaugh’s vile comments about a Georgetown University law student. Even one senator who won’t run for election for another four years had second thoughts about voting yes on the Blunt Amendment, the one that said employers and insurance companies don’t need to provide insurance for anything based on personal reasons. With this bill becoming law, owners who are faith healers could tell their waitpeople or hotel maids or retail clerks that they cannot have any insurance but should instead go to the church’s faith healer.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) won her election almost two years ago, despite a Tea Party member running as the Republican candidate and Murkowski running as a write-in. The state even demanded that her name be spelled correctly for the votes to count. With her opposition either far right or Democrat, Murkowski picked up moderate votes, many of them women.

Julia O’Malley of The News Tribune (Anchorage) recently interviewed Murkowski. “She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn’t line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote,” O’Malley wrote.

Yet Murkowski ignored the women who voted for her, the ones who believed they should receive free birth control. Instead the senator voted yes to allow employers and insurance companies to remove insurance coverage for hormone treatment. She claimed that she was supporting religious freedom, which is what everyone says in opposing birth control for women, but she told O’Malley that she would not have voted for the amendment if she could re-vote. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” Murkowski said.

During her campaign, people handed out plastic bracelets with Murkowski written on them so that voters would know how to spell it right. Wearing a gold bracelet hat looks like those plastic ones, the senator said, “I got there [the Senate] because Alaskans took a little bit of risk on me.” O’Malley wonders now if the senator will take risks for the people of Alaska or just apologize for her votes.

Murkowski was concerned about the political ramifications of the Blunt amendment. “The wind had shifted, and Republicans didn’t have enough sense to get off of it,” she said. Like other Republicans, Murkowski worries about the public taking note about the fact that her party is on the wrong side of the birth control issue. She also takes issue with her colleagues in tippy-toeing around Rush Limbaugh’s recent bullying of Sandra Fluke. Murkowski declared his recent remarks “incendiary” and called on political leaders in her party to join her in openly criticizing Limbaugh.

“The comments made by Limbaugh, I was just stunned,” she added. “In the end, I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Including Republicans? “Everybody,” she responded. “What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.”

Instead of dealing up front with Limbaugh, Republicans are backing off on the entire birth control issue. “I think the Senate already took action and we’ve got a lot else on our plate,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who is running for Senate. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said through his spokesman that it was up to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton to determine when the legislation would move forward. This statement contradicts an earlier declaration that declared full steam ahead on the anti-contraception bill. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s anti-contraceptive bill has been around for several months and may languish for several more until it just dissipates.

The Republican leadership has been unbelievably weak in addressing his unpardonable behavior. In his column, Eugene Robinson said it best: “So let’s get this straight: These guys [Republican presidential candidates] want us to believe they’re ready to face down Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Un, the Taliban, and what’s left of al-Qaeda. Yet they’re so scared of a talk-radio buffoon that they ignore or excuse an eruption of venom that some of Limbaugh’s advertisers … find inexcusable.”

Even conservative pundits recognize how pathetic the Republican leadership has been since the Limbaugh diatribe against Fluke. George Will told George Stephanopoulos, “The Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

Memories are short, and the general election is eight months away. This issue, however, may not disappear in time to save the conservatives.

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