Nel's New Day

June 8, 2013

June Brings Good News

Amidst recent scandals and outrage of IRS and spying issues are stories that give hope for the future. One of these is the growth of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” demonstrations against GOP assaults on women’s reproductive rights, public education, care for the poor and mentally ill, and voting rights. Rev. William Barber of the state NAACP spoke to a crowd, objecting to lawmakers’ cutting 500,000 people from the Medicaid rolls, causing one million working poor families to lose their earned income tax credit “so that 23 wealthy people get a tax cut,” and giving $100 million in public money to private schools while cutting corporate tax rates. Two years ago, the Tea Party drove the election, giving both legislative chambers to Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction almost 150 years ago.

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As Barber talked, two prison buses waited to take the people to jail. The 151 people arrested were an increase from the 17 five weeks earlier. Many of them are the elderly, disabled, clergy, professionals–people who traditionally seen as the establishment. Also parked outside the crowd are four vans from Baptist churches filled with bottled water, bag lunches, and rain ponchos, not really menacing.

President Obama may have held his own mini-protest last week when he appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice as his national security adviser. Last fall, Republican legislators attacked Rice so viciously after she delivered the talking points given her by the FBI regarding the four deaths in Benghazi that she declined to be a nominee for Secretary of State. The Senate would have to approve that nomination, but this position requires no Congressional approval. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted that he would “make every effort to work w/her on imp’t issues.” Earlier he accused her of giving “false information concerning how this tragedy happened” and of being unfit for high office, asking for her resignation because of her “bad intelligence.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) had described Rice as “somebody who’s had every drop of Kool-Aid” and sounds “like she’d be a great head of the Democratic National Committee.” After her new appointment, he said, “I had a very good conversation with Ambassador Susan Rice to let her know I look forward to working with her on shaping important foreign policy and national security issues as she serves in her new role.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) stands his ground. “I really question the president’s judgment in promoting someone who was complicit in misleading the American public,” Paul said. All the senators might want to play nice with Susan Rice: her new position makes her more powerful than the Secretary of State, the office that they kept her from having.

The president—and small businesses in California—got some good news about Obamacare. Big health insurers Anthem and Blue Cross/Blue Shield were told to refund over $36 million in overcharges to these small businesses, and that’s just one state. While conservatives claim to love “Main Street, USA,” they prefer to let huge corporations rob them. Obamacare has already saved $147 million for newly insured young adults and another $1.1 billion for 12.8 million people because of the provision that insurance companies must pay a minimum of 80 percent of premiums for real medical care. This is the law that GOP House members have voted 37 times to overturn.

Swiffer-rosie-the-riveter-e1370362475592A bad news story turned into good news within less than a week when Swiffer removed Rosie the Riveter from its advertising. During World War II, the picture of Rosie became a lasting feminist icon, showing that women could get out of the kitchen. Swiffer put her back in when they used the image to promote its new mopping products. 

 

 

120606_sheldon_adelson_ap_605Casino mogul and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, 79, may have less clout in the next presidential election. After dropping millions of dollars on Newt Gingrich’s campaign and denigrating Mitt Romney, he changed the recipient of more millions after Romney was chosen for the GOP candidate. With a net worth of $26.5 billion, Adelson and his wife gave almost $150 million to GOP superPACs and “nonprofit” groups, legal because of Citizens United.

Rumors of his fraudulent actions swirled around for several years; now a grand jury in Los Angeles is probing an alleged federal money-laundering scheme of his Nevada-based casinos. Adelson may not be a subject of the inquiry, but he’s in trouble for violations of an anti-bribery statute involving his four casinos in Macau, the only place in China with legalized casino gambling. A Las Vegas jury has ruled that Adelson’s casino, the Sands, owes Richard Suen $70 million for lobbying help to open its first Macau casino almost a decade ago. And PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that had represented the Sands for a quarter-century, suddenly resigned probably because of legal and regulatory concerns. [AP photo]

Rumors about Texas turning politically purple, if not downright blue, are also swirling around, and a Tea Party member is helping. After Democrats launched Battleground Texas, state GOP leaders opened fire against the opposition. State Attorney General Greg Abbott called the Democratic campaign “an assault far more dangerous than what the leader of North Korea threatened when he said he was going to add Austin, Texas, as one of the recipients of his nuclear weapons.”

The sabotage from the conservatives came when Ken Emanuelson said, “I’m going to be real honest with you; the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.” He evidently didn’t get the memo on GOP minority outreach. Out of a population of 26 million, Texas has a white population of only 44 percent. Although 70 percent of Hispanics and 90+ percent of blacks voted for President Obama, he still lost the vote because of the low minority voter registration and turnout. Emanuelson could help change that.

Another GOP dinosaur problem comes from the Heritage Foundation. Known as a conservative think tank, the organization has begun to take on the personality of its new leader, rabidly right Jim DeMint who was formerly a senator from South Carolina. Still insisting on the importance of austerity in a crisis—continually debunked within the past year—one of its economists, Salim Furth, claimed that most of Europe isn’t practicing austerity according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

A Senate member explained that Furth’s OECD numbers are actually the opposite of reality, calling the testimony “meretricious,” a polite term for just short of lying. Another notable economist, Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman, wondered “whether Heritage may at this point be destroying its own usefulness. Its purpose was never to do real research; it was always a propaganda arm of the movement. But it was supposed to create a plausible illusion of intellectual rigor, good enough to take in gullible journalists.”

Thanks to DeMint, the Heritage Foundation is moving away from research and into, according to DeMint, “good marketing.” Instead of policy, it will focus on “messaging” and “communicating.” Instead of a think tank, the Heritage Foundation will become a message strategist for like-minded politicians. That’s bad news for the GOP because they aren’t able to do their own research.

And thanks to Rachel Maddow, I’ve found the website for marine traffic, fun for me because I live in one of the largest fishing harbors on the West Coast that’s also home to NOAA ships and other research vessels. Maddow has found another use for the website that tracks ships—searching the locations where the Koch brothers are sending their stockpile of petroleum coke to be burned. The article explains her reasons, process, and the end location of a couple of ships, two plants in Nova Scotia.

The best news for parenting gays and lesbians confirms what they already know: these children are not only thriving but also maintaining a higher rate of family cohesion than other families. The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families is the world’s largest comparison of children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexual couples. Although researchers found no difference in self-esteem, emotional behavior, and time spent with parents, children with same-sex parents also score higher for overall health. Legislators who prevent adoption by same-sex couples and Supreme Court justices who worry about “the children” might want to take notice. 

At the same time that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is backing out of immigration reform and the Eagle Forum has called on people to “shoot” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for her support of the act, evangelical leaders are now praying for GOP congressmen to back immigration reform and running radio ads, primarily in red states, to support for the act. Maybe they want more people in their congregation: 600,000 Latinos in the United States convert from Catholicism to evangelical Protestantism every year. Or more voters. One-third of registered GOP or leaning-GOP voters are also evangelical Christians. Those in the pews are, however, pushing back. White evangelical Christians are the least likely group to allow legal status to undocumented immigrants. 

The Senate starts debate on the immigration reform bill next week. Let’s see how good the news is then. 

September 11, 2012

GOP Takes Our Freedom

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:53 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Eleven years ago, a tragedy in New York City gave the government a green light to limit freedom for the people in the country. Since that time, the GOP has used fear and hatred like bludgeons; they have started two wars and allowed huge corporations to increase their burgeoning control over the people of the United States. Although the GOP talks about wanting small government and giving people more freedom, they have slashed away at the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” described by the U.S. Declaration of Independence, hammering at freedom from religion and freedom to control one’s body. There are also many other ways we have lost our freedoms—our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Employment: Businesses have rights; workers don’t. More and more, businesses hire on a temporary or part-time basis so that they don’t have to provide rights and benefits. Employers can read employees’ correspondence on company computers and track employees’ movements on the company cell phones. Businesses have the right to fire anyone for expressing political views online even when employees write these when they’re not at work. States legislate against organizing and forming unions, thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Lawmakers use tax abuses to break union contracts. Businesses even control bathroom breaks: Mary Williams Walsh reported in the New York Times, “Employees at lower rungs of the economic ladder can be timed with stopwatches in the bathroom; stonewalled when they ask to go; given disciplinary points for frequent urination; even hunted down by supervisors with walkie-talkies if they tarry in the stalls.”

A healthy lifestyle: The United States ranks 49th in infant mortality; lower-income families suffer much greater infant mortality in this country than those in higher income brackets. The average life expectancy for an African American in New Orleans is roughly the same as that of a North Korean and shorter than that of people in Colombia, Venezuela, of Vietnam. Life expectancy for poor white males in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley is roughly the same as that of males in Mexico and Panama. Mortality among Americans aged 65 and older decreased by 13 percent after Medicare was created, and seniors spent 13 percent fewer days in the hospital. The GOP plans to reverse this trend through their proposed Medicare voucher system and increased eligibility age.

Health care: Millions of people in this country are forced to beg for health care, even when they pay for insurance, and then argue over a complex system of denied payments with arcane explanations. Without the ability to fight this, people then are subject to medical debt collectors and possibly end up in jail. Most people in the United States lack affordable dental care.

Social mobility: The recession allowed businesses to demand wage concessions from workers and increase huge salaries and bonuses to senior executives. The push toward tax cuts for the wealthy resulted in a decline of government jobs. The share of middle-income jobs in this country has fallen from 52 percent to 42 percent since 1980, while the share of low-income jobs rose from 30 percent t0 41 percent. The cost of higher education has shifted from taxpayers to students and their families in the past 30 years. During this time inflation has increased median family income by 147% while college tuition and fees rose 439%. That’s a tripling of education costs, in real dollar terms. According to the New York Times, “Among families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent, the net cost of a year at a public university is 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000. At community colleges, long seen as a safety net, that cost is 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000.”

Personal time: The U.S. is one of the few developed nations that don’t require employers to offer paid vacation time to their employees. Even if employees have vacation time, they have trouble using it because staff cutbacks keep them from being covered. Others can’t afford it, and employers pressure them not to take off any time. Michael Janati also noted in the Washington Times, “Americans are working approximately 11 more hours per week now than they did in the 1970’s, yet the average income for middle-income families has declined by 13% (when adjusting for inflation).” More people are literally “working themselves to death.”

Information: Because of weak regulations and lax enforcement of laws, corporations can keep people from access to vital information for business transactions. Banks hide balloon payments and other key loan provisions in complex and unreadable documents while bankers misrepresent the terms of the loan. The Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) hides the names of mortgage holders and their terms from people and courts. Banks control FICO and other credit-scoring agencies. Corporations walk away from bad loan deals with their banks, but individuals have almost no recourse if they fail to live up to agreements. In fact, individuals pay for the corporations faulting on their loans. If people refuse to accept “arbitration clauses” weighted in favor of corporations, they will be denied critical services. Corporations such as cable television operators and health insurers act as monopolies or near-monopolies. These actions deny freedom of choice.

Bill Moyers said, “In 1984 the number of companies owning a controlling interest in America’s media was 50; today that number is six.” Corporate media still shapes our perception of current events. When tens of thousands of demonstrators protested at George W. Bush’s first inauguration of George W. Bush, almost all the media refused to show them. The same thing happened when an estimated one million demonstrators protested the invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003. News outlets such as the Washington Post, which has outsourced much of its financial reporting to an organization run by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, use labels such as “extreme” and “fringe” to describe politicians and organizations who advocate for policies which are supported by 75 or 80 percent of all Americans.

Housing and travel: The 16 million underwater homes in the United States house are occupied by approximately 40 million people who owe an estimated $1.2 trillion in “underwater” real estate value. This value disappeared when the housing bubble burst. The mortgage deception often included forgeries, lies about the loan’s terms, and filing of false information. Stuck with these debts, many homeowners lose the ability to move to another area even if they need to find jobs lost after the bank-created financial crisis. If they have a job, they pay taxes that prop up the banks.

Privacy: Internet companies sell personal data for profit, often by using cookies on personal computers to track activities. Facebook sold users’ video rental records. Google pulled Americans’ personal information via WiFi when it created Street View. Apple iPhones track and store their owners’ movements. The government is already using corporate data, sometimes without subpoenas. Corporations voluntarily permit the government to use their technology to spy on citizens, included one reported case where the government placed a spy server at an ATT location to track the activities of its subscribers. There’s a lot more that we don’t know.

Representative democracy: Lawmakers ignore the wishes of people in the country. While 75 percent of most Americans and 76 percent of Tea Party supporters oppose Social Security cuts to balance the budget, political leaders negotiate these cuts. Lawmakers refuse to legislate tighter control on banks, but the majority of people in the United States want this to happen. The majority of people want higher taxes on millionaires, another issue that Republicans will not consider.

The GOP is right: we need more freedom. It’s just that the GOP version of freedom shackles the people in the United States.

Asides: Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said he plans to spend $100 million this year to get Mitt Romney elected president. It would be money well invested if Romney is elected. Romney’s tax cuts would net Adelson $2.3 billion over the four years of Romney’s administration, making him a profit of $2.2 billion.

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to require local television stations to put detailed information about political advertising including the cost of specific commercials on their websites.

Veteran GOP strategist Mary Matalin describes Paul Ryan’s wife, Janna, as living a real middle-class mother life. Married to one of the most powerful Washington lawmakers, she also has a cousin in the House and an uncle who used to be an Oklahoma governor and senator. Janna Ryan has also worked as a Capitol Hill staffer and lobbyist who knows “probably more than any of the spouses that, with all due respect, didn’t come from that background, whether it’s Michelle [Obama] or Ann [Romney] or Jill [Biden],” according to Matalin. Sounds like an ordinary soccer mom to me. 

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